ITALY is less the land of what is venerable in antiquity than of beauty, by divine right young eternally in spite of age. This is due partly to her history and art and literature, partly to the temper of the races who have made her what she is, and partly to her natural advantages. Her oldest architectural remains, the temples of Paestum and Girgenti, or the gates of Perugia and Volterra, are so adapted to Italian landscape and so graceful in their massive strength, that we forget the centuries which have passed over them. We leap as by a single bound from the times of Roman greatness to the new birth of humanity in the fourteenth century, forgetting the many years during which Italy, like the rest of Europe, was buried in what our ancestors called Gothic barbarism. The illumination cast upon the classic period by the literature of Rome and by the memory of her great men is so vivid that we feel the days of the republic and the empire to be near us; while the Italian Renaissance is so truly a revival of that former splendor, a resumption of the music interrupted for a season, that it is extremely difficult to form any conception of the five long centuries which elapsed between the Lombard invasion in 568 and the accession of Hildebrand to the Pontificate in 1073. So true is it that nothing lives and has reality for us but what is spiritual, intellectual, self-possessed in personality and consciousness. When the Egyptian priest said to Solon, ” You Greeks are always children,” he intended a gentle sarcasm, but he implied a compliment; for the quality of imperishable youth belonged to the Hellenic spirit, and has become the heritage of every race which partook of it. And this spirit in no common degree has been shared by the Italians of the earlier and the later classic epoch. The land is full of monuments pertaining to those two brilliant periods; and whenever the voice of poet has spoken or the hand of artist has been at work, that spirit, as distinguished from the spirit of mediaevalism, has found expression.
Yet it must be remembered that during the five centuries above-mentioned Italy was given over to Lombards, Franks, and Germans. Feudal institutions, alien to the social and political ideals of the classic world, took a tolerably firm hold on the country. The Latin element remained silent, passive, in abeyance, undergoing an important transformation. It was in the course of those five hundred years that the Italians as a modern people, separable from their Roman ancestors, were formed. At the close of this obscure passage in Italian history, their communes, the foundation of Italy’s future independence and the source of her peculiar national development, appeared in all the vigor and audacity of youth. At its close the Italian genius presented Europe with its greatest triumph of constructive ability, the papacy. At its close, again, the series of supreme artistic achievements, starting with the architecture of churches and public palaces, passing on to sculpture and painting, and culminating in music, which only ended with the temporary extinction of national vitality in the seventeenth century, was simultaneously begun in all the provinces of the peninsula.
So important were these five centuries of incubation for Italy, and so little is there left of them to arrest the attention of the student, dazzled as he is by the ever-living glories of Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance, that a visit to the ruins of Canossa is almost a duty. There, in spite of himself, by the very isolation and forlorn abandonment of what was once so formidable a seat of feudal despotism and ecclesiastical tyranny, he is forced to confront the obscure but mighty spirit of the Middle Ages. There, if anywhere, the men of those iron-hearted times anterior to the Crusades will acquire distinctness for his imagination when he recalls the three main actors in the drama enacted on the summit of Canossa’s rock in the bitter winter of 1077.
Canossa lies almost due south of Reggio d’ Emilia, upon the slopes of the Apennines. Starting from Reggio, the carriage-road keeps to the plain for some while in a westerly direction, and then bends away towards the mountains. As we approach their spurs the ground begins to rise. The rich Lombard tilth of maize and vine gives place to English-looking hedgerows, lined with oaks, and studded with handsome dark tufts of green hellebore. The hills descend in melancholy earth-heaps on the plain, crowned here and there with ruined castles. Four of these mediæval strong-holds, called Bianello, Montevetro, Monteluzzo, and Montezano, give the name of Quattro Castelli to the commune. The most important of them, Bianello, which, next to Canossa, was the strongest fortress possessed by the Countess Matilda and her ancestors, still presents a considerable mass of masonry, roofed, and habitable. The group formed a kind of advance-guard for Canossa against attack from Lombardy. After passing Quattro Castelli, we enter the hills, climbing gently upward between barren slopes of ashy gray earththe débris of most ancient Apennines crested at favorable points with lonely towers. In truth, the whole country bristles with ruined forts, making it clear that during the Middle Ages Canossa was but the centre of a great military system, the core and kernel of a fortified position which covered an area to be measured by scores of square miles, reaching far into the mountains, and buttressed on the plain. As yet, however, after nearly two hours’ driving, Canossa has not come in sight. At last a turn in the road discloses an opening in the valley of the Enza to the left. Up this lateral gorge we see first the Castle of Rossena, on its knoll of solid red rock, flaming in the sunlight; and then, further withdrawn, detached from all surrounding objects, and reared aloft as though to sweep the sea of waved and broken hills around it, a sharp horn of hard white stone. That is Canossathe alba Canossa, the candida petra of its rhyming chronicler. There is no mistaking the commanding value of its situation. At the same time the brilliant whiteness of Canossa’s rocky hill, contrasted with the red gleam of Rossena, and outlined against the prevailing dulness of these earthy Apennines, secures a picturesque individuality concordant with its unique history and unrivalled strength.
There is still a journey of two hours before the castle can be reached, and this may be performed on foot or horseback. The path winds upward over broken ground; following the arête of curiously jumbled and thwarted hill-slopes; passing beneath the battlements of Rossena, whence the unfortunate Everelina threw herself in order to escape the savage love of her lord and jailer; and then skirting those horrid earthen baize which are so common and so unattractive a feature of Apennine scenery. The most hideous baize to be found in the length and breadth of Italy are probably those of Volterra, from which the citizens themselves re-coil with a kind of terror, and which lure melancholy men by in-tolerable fascination on to suicide. Forever crumbling, altering with frost and rain, discharging gloomy glaciers of slow-crawling mud, and scarring the hill-side with tracts of barrenness, these earth-precipices are among the most ruinous and discomfortable failures of nature. They have not even so much of wildness or grandeur as forms the saving merit of nearly all wasteful things in the world, and can only be classed with the desolate ghiare of Italian river-beds.
Such as they are, these balte form an appropriate preface to the gloomy and repellent isolation of Canossa. The rock towers from a narrow platform to the height of rather more than one hundred and sixty feet from its base. The top is fairly level, forming an irregular triangle, of which the greatest length is about two hundred and sixty feet, and the width about one hundred feet, Scarcely a vestige of any building can be traced either upon the platform or the summit, with the exception of a broken wall and windows sup-posed to belong to the end of the sixteenth century. The ancient castle, with its triple circuit of walls, enclosing barracks for the garrison, lodgings for the lord and his retainers, a stately church, a sumptuous monastery, storehouses, stables, workshops, and all the various buildings of a fortified stronghold, have utterly disappeared. The very passage of approach cannot be ascertained; for it is doubtful whether the present irregular path that scales the western face of the rock be really the remains of some old stair-case, corresponding to that by which Mont St. Michel in Normandy is ascended. One thing is tolerably certainthat the three walls of which we hear so much from the chroniclers, and which played so picturesque a part in the drama of Henry IV.’s penance, surrounded the cliff at its base, and embraced a large acreage of ground. The citadel itself must have been but the acropolis or keep of an extensive fortress.
There has been plenty of time since the year 1255, when the people of Reggio sacked and destroyed Canossa, for Nature to resume her undisputed sway by obliterating the handiwork of men ; and at present Nature forms the chief charm of Canossa. Lying one afternoon of May on the crisp short grass at the edge of a precipice purple with iris in full blossom, I surveyed, from what were once the battlements of Matilda’s castle, a prospect than which there is none more spirit-stirring, by reason of its beauty and its manifold associations, in Europe. The lower castle-crowded hills have sunk. Reggio lies at our feet, shut in between the crests of Monte Carboniano and Monte delle Celle. Beyond Reggio stretches Lombardy-the fairest and most memorable battle-field of nations, the richest and most highly cultivated garden of civilized industry. Nearly all the Lombard cities may be seen, some, of them faint like bluish films of vapor, some clear with dome and spire. There is Modena and her Ghirlandina. Carpi, Parma, Mirandola,, Verona, Mantua, lie well-defined and russet on the flat green map; and there flashes a bend of lordly Po ; and there the Euganeans rise like islands, telling us where Padua and Ferrara nestle in the amethystine haze. Beyond and above all to the northward sweep the Alps, tossing their silvery crests up into the cloudless sky from the violet mist that girds their flanks and drowns their basements. Monte Adamello and the Ortler, the cleft of the Brenner, and the sharp peaks of the Venetian Alps are all distinctly visible. An eagle flying straight from our eyrie might traverse Lombardy and light among the snow-fields of the Valtelline between sunrise and sundown. Nor is the prospect tame to southward. Here the Apennines roll, billow above billow, in majestic desolation, soaring to snow summits in the Pellegrino region. As our eye attempts to thread that labyrinth of hill and vale, we tell ourselves that those roads wind to Tuscany, and yonder stretches Garfagnana, where Ariosto lived and mused in honorable exile from the world he loved.
It was by one of the mountain passes that lead from Lucca northward that the first founder of Canossa is said to have travelled early in the tenth century. Sigifredo, if the tradition may be trusted, was very wealthy ; and with his money he bought lands and signorial rights at Reggio, bequeathing to his children, when he died, about 945, a patrimony which they developed into a petty kingdom. Azzo, his second son, fortified Canossa, and made it his principal place of residence. When Lothair, King of Italy, died, in 950, leaving his beautiful widow to the ill-treatment of his successor, Berenger, Adelaide found a protector in this Azzo. She had been imprisoned on the Lake of Garda ; but managing to escape in man’s clothes to Mantua, she thence sent news of her misfortunes to Canossa. Azzo lost no time in riding with his knights to her relief, and brought her back in safety to his mountain fastness. It is related that Azzo was afterwards instrumental in calling Otho into Italy and procuring his marriage with Adelaide, in consequence of which events Italy became a fief of the Empire. Owing to the part he played at this time, the Lord of Canossa was recognized as one of the most powerful vassals of the German emperor in Lombardy. Honors were heaped upon him ; and he grew so rich and formidable that Berenger, the titular King of Italy, laid siege to his fortress of Canossa. The memory of this siege, which lasted for three years and a half, is said still to linger in the popular traditions of the place. When Azzo died, at the end of the tenth century, he left to his son Tedaldo the title of Count of Reggio and Modena; and this title was soon after raised to that of Marquis. The Marches governed as Vicar of the Empire by Tedaldo included Reggio, Modena, Ferrara, Brescia, and probably Mantua. They stretched, in fact, across the north of Italy, forming a quadrilateral between the Alps and Apennines. Like his father, Tedaldo adhered consistently to the imperial party; and when he died and was buried at Canossa, he in his turn bequeathed to his son Bonifazio a power and jurisdiction increased by his own abilities. Bonifazio held the state of a sovereign at Canossa, adding the Duchy of Tuscany to his father’s fiefs, and meeting the allied forces of the Lombard barons in the field of Coviolo like an independent potentate. His power and splendor were great enough to rouse the jealousy of the emperor; but Henry III. seems to have thought it more prudent to propitiate this proud vassal, and to secure his kindness, than to attempt his humiliation. Bonifazio married Bea-trice, daughter of Frederick, Duke of Lorraineher whose marble sarcophagus in the Campo Santo at Pisa is said to have inspired Niccola Pisano with his new style of sculpture. Their only child, Matilda, was born, probably at Lucca, in 1046 ; and six years after her birth, Bonifazio, who had swayed his subjects like an iron-handed tyrant, was murdered. To the great house of Canossa, the rulers of one third of Italy, there now remained only two women, Bonifazio’s widow, Beatrice, and his daughter, Matilda. Beatrice married Godfrey, Duke of Lorraine, who was recognized by Henry IV. as her husband and as feudatory of the empire in the fall place of Boniface. He died about 1070; and in this year Matilda was married by proxy to his son, Godfrey the Hunchback, whom, however, she did not see till the year 1072. The marriage was not a happy one; and the question has even been disputed among Matilda’s biographers whether it was ever consummated. At any rate, it did not last long; for Godfrey was killed at Antwerp in 1076. In this year Matilda also lost her mother, Beatrice, who died at Pisa, and was buried in the cathedral.
By this rapid enumeration of events it will be seen how the power and honors of the house of Canossa, including Tuscany, Spoleto, and the fairest portions of Lombardy, had devolved upon a single woman of the age of thirty at the moment when the fierce quarrel between pope and emperor began in the year 1076. Matilda was destined to play a great, a striking, and a tragic part in the opening drama of Italian history. Her decided character and uncompromising course of action have won for her the name of “la gran donna d’ Italia,” and have caused her memory to be blessed or execrated, according as the temporal pretensions and spiritual tyranny of the papacy may have found supporters or opponents in posterity. She was reared from childhood in habits of austerity and unquestioning piety. Submission to the Church became for her not merely a rule of conduct, but a passionate enthusiasm. She identified herself with the cause of four successive popes, protected her idol, the terrible and iron-hearted Hildebrand, in the time of his adversity ; remained faithful to his principles after his death ; and having served the Holy See with all her force and all that she possessed through all her lifetime, she bequeathed her vast dominions to it on her death-bed. Like some of the greatest mediaeval characterslike Hildebrand himself-. Matilda was so thoroughly of one piece that she towers above the mists of ages with the massive grandeur of an incarnated idea. She is for us the living statue of a single thought, an undivided impulse, the more than woman born to represent her age. Nor was it without reason that Dante symbolized in her the love of Holy Church ; though students of the Purgatory will hardly recognize the lovely maiden, singing and plucking flowers beside the stream of Lethe, in the stern and warlike chatelaine of Canossa. Unfortunately we know but little of Matilda’s personal appearance. Her health was not strong; and it is said to have been weakened, especially in her last illness, by ascetic observances. Yet she headed her own troops, armed with sword and cuirass, avoiding neither peril nor fatigue in the quarrels of her master, Gregory. Up to the year 1622 two strong suits of mail were preserved at Quattro Castelli, which were said to have been worn by her in battle, and which were afterwards sold on the market-place at Reggio. This habit of donning armor does not, however, prove that Matilda was exceptionally vigorous ; for in those savage times she could hardly have played the part of heroine without participating personally in the dangers of warfare.
No less monumental in the plastic unity of his character was the monk Hildebrand, who for twenty years before his elevation to the papacy had been the maker of popes and the creator of the policy of Rome. When he was himself elected in the year 1073, and had assumed the name of Gregory VII., he immediately began to put in practice the plans for Church aggrandizement he had slowly matured during the previous quarter of a century. To free the Church from its subservience to the Empire ; to assert the Pope’s right to ratify the election of the emperor and to exercise jurisdiction over him; to place ecclesiastical appointments in the sole power of the Roman See; and to render the celibacy of the clergy obligatory, were the points he had resolved to carry. Taken singly and together, these chief aims of Hildebrand’s policy had but one objectthe magnification of the Church at the expense both of the people and of secular authorities, and the further separation of the Church from the ties and sympathies of common life that bound it to humanity. To accuse Hildebrand of personal ambition would be but shallow criticism, though it is clear that his inflexible and puissant nature found a savage selfish pleasure in trampling upon power and humbling pride at warfare with his own. Yet his was in no sense an egotistic purpose, like that which moved the popes of the Renaissance to dismember Italy for their bastards. Hildebrand, like Matilda, was himself the creature of a great idea. These two potent personalities completely understood each other, and worked towards a single end. The mythopeeic fancy might conceive of them as the male and female manifestations of one dominant faculty, the spirit of ecclesiastical dominion incarnate in a man and woman of almost superhuman mould.
Opposed to them, as the third actor in the drama of Canossa, was a man of feebler mould. Henry IV., King of Italy, but not yet crowned emperor, had none of his opponents’ unity of purpose or monumental dignity of character. At war with his German feudatories, browbeaten by rebellious sons, unfaithful and cruel to his wife, vacillating in the measures he adopted to meet his divers difficulties, at one time tormented by his conscience into cowardly submission, and at another treasonably neglectful of the most solemn obligations, Henry was no match for the stern wills against which he was destined to break in unavailing passion. Early disagreements with Gregory had culminated in his excommunication. The German nobles abandoned his cause ; and Henry found it expedient to summon a council in Augsburg for the settlement of matters in dispute between the empire and the papacy. Gregory expressed his willingness to attend this council, and set forth from Rome accompanied by the Countess Matilda in December, 1076. He did not, however, travel farther than Vercelli, for news here reached him that Henry was about to enter Italy at the head of a powerful army. Matilda here-upon persuaded the Holy Father to place himself in safety among her strongholds of Canossa. Thither accordingly Gregory retired before the ending of that year ; and bitter were the sarcasms uttered by the imperial partisans in Italy upon this protection offered by a fair countess to the monk who had been made a pope. The foul calumnies of that bygone age would be unworthy of even so much as this notice, if we did not trace in them the ineradicable Italian tendency to cynical insinuationa tendency which has involved the history of the Renaissance popes in an almost impenetrable mist of lies and exaggerations.
Henry was in truth upon his road to Italy, but with a very different attendance from that which Gregory expected. Accompanied by Bertha, his wife, and his boy son Conrad, the emperor elect left Spires in the condition of a fugitive, crossed Burgundy, spent Christmas at Besançon, and journeyed to the foot of Mont Cenis. It is said that he was followed by a single male servant of mean birth ; and if the tale of his adventures during the pas-sage of the Alps can be credited, history presents fewer spectacles more picturesque than the straits to which this representative of the Caesars, this supreme chief of feudal civility, this ruler des-tined still to he the leader of mighty armies and the father of a line of monarchs, was exposed. Concealing his real name and state, he induced some shepherds to lead him and his escort through the thick snows to the summit of Mont Cenis ; and by the help of these men the imperial party were afterwards let down the snow-slopes on the farther side by means of ropes. Bertha and her women were sewn up in hides and dragged across the frozen surface of the winter drifts. It was a year memorable for its severity. Heavy snow had fallen in October, which continued ice-bound and unyielding till the following April.
No sooner had Henry reached Turin than he set forward again in the direction of Canossa. The faine of his arrival preceded him, and he found that his party was far stronger in Italy than he had ventured to expect. Proximity to the Church of Rome divests its fulminations of half their terrors. The Italian bishops and barons, less superstitious than the Germans, and with greater reason to resent the domineering graspingness of Gregory, were ready to espouse the emperor’s cause. Henry gathered a formidable force as he marched onward across Lombardy ; and some of the most illustrious prelates and nobles of the South were in his suite. A more determined leader than Henry proved himself to be might possibly have forced Gregory to some accommodation, in spite of the strength of Canossa and the Pope’s invincible obstinacy, by proper use of these supporters. Meanwhile the adherents of the Church were mustered in Matilda’s fortress; among whom may be mentioned Azzo, the progenitor of Este and Brunswick ; Hugo, Abbot of Clugny ; and the princely family of Piedmont. “I am become a second Rome,” exclaims Canossa, in the language of Matilda’s rhyming chronicler; “all honors are mine; I hold at once both pope and king, the princes of Italy and those of Gaul, those of Rome, and those from far beyond the Alps.” The stage was ready; the audience had assembled; and now the three great actors were about to meet. Immediately upon his arrival at Canossa, Henry sent for his cousin, the Countess Matilda, and besought her to intercede for him with Gregory. He was prepared to make any concessions or to undergo any humiliations if only the ban of excommunication might be removed ; nor, cowed as he was by his own superstitious conscience, and by the memory of the opposition he had met with from his German vassals, does he seem to have once thought of meeting force with force, and of returning to his Northern kingdom triumphant in the overthrow of Gregory’s pride. Matilda undertook to plead his cause before the Pontiff. But Gregory was not to be moved so soon to mercy. “If Henry has in truth repented,” he replied, “let him lay down crown and sceptre and declare himself un-worthy of the name of king.” The only point conceded to the suppliant was that he should be admitted in the garb of a penitent within the precincts of the castle. Leaving his retinue out-side the walls, Henry entered the first series of outworks, and was thence conducted to the second, so that between him and the citadel itself there still remained the third of the surrounding bast-ions. Here he was bidden to wait the Pope’s pleasure ; and here, in the midst of that bitter winter weather, while the fierce winds of the Apennines were sweeping sleet upon him in their passage from Monte Pellegrino to the plain, he knelt barefoot, clothed in sack-cloth, fasting from dawn till eve, for three whole days. On the morning of the fourth day, judging that Gregory was inexorable, and that his suit would not be granted, Henry retired to the Chapel of St. Nicholas, which stood within this second precinct. There he called to his aid the Abbot of Clugny and the countess, both of whom were his relations, and who, much as they might sympathize with Gregory, could hardly be supposed to look with satisfaction on their royal kinsman’s outrage. The abbot told Henry that nothing in the world could move the Pope; but Matilda, when in turn he fell before her knees and wept, engaged to do for him the utmost. She probably knew that the moment for unbending had arrived, and that her imperious guest could not with either decency, or prudence prolong the outrage offered to the civil chief of Christendom. It was the 25th of January when the emperor elect was brought, half dead with cold and misery, into the Pope’s presence. There he prostrated himself in the dust, crying aloud for pardon. It is said that Gregory first placed his foot upon Henry’s neck, uttering these words of Scripture : ” Super aspidem et basiliscum ambulabis, et conculcabis leonem et draconem,” and that then he raised him from the earth and formally pronounced his pardon. The prelates and nobles who took part in this scene were compelled to guarantee with their own oaths the vows of obedience pronounced by Henry ; so that in the very act of reconciliation a new insult was offered to him. After this Gregory said mass, and permitted Henry to communicate; and at the close of the day a banquet was served, at which the king sat down to meat with the Pope and the countess.
It is probable that, while Henry’s penance was. performed in the castle courts beneath the rock, his reception by the Pope, and all that subsequently happened, took place in the citadel itself. But of this we have no positive information. Indeed, the silence of the chronicles as to the topography of Canossa is peculiarly unfortunate for lovers of the picturesque in historic detail, now that there is no possibility of tracing the outlines of the ancient building. Had the author of the Vita Mathildis (Muratori, vol. v.) foreseen that his beloved Canossa would one day be nothing but a mass of native rock, he would undoubtedly have been more explicit on these points, and much that is vague about an event only paralleled by our Henry IL’s penance before Becket’s shrine at Canterbury might now be clear.
Very little remains to be told about Canossa. During the same year1077Matilda made the celebrated donation of her fiefs to Holy Church. This was accepted by Gregory in the name of St. Peter, and it was confirmed by a second deed during the pontificate of Urban IV., in 1102. Though Matilda subsequently married Guelfo d’ Este, son of the Duke of Bavaria, she was speedily divorced from him; nor was there any heir to a marriage ridiculous by reason of disparity of age, the bridegroom being but eighteen, while the bride was forty-three in the year of her second nuptials. During one of Henry’s descents into Italy, he made an unsuccessful attack upon Canossa, assailing it at the head of a considerable force one October morning in 1092. Matilda’s biographer informs us that the mists of autumn veiled his beloved fortress from the eyes of the beleaguerers. They had not even the satisfaction of beholding the unvanquished citadel; and, what was more, the banner of the emperor was seized and dedicated as a trophy in the Church of S. Apollonio. In the following year the countess opened her gates of Canossa to an illustrious fugitive, Adelaide, the wife of her old foeman, Henry, who had escaped with difficulty from the insults and the cruelty of her husband. After Henry’s death, his son, the Emperor Henry V., paid Matilda a visit in her castle of Bianello, addressed her by the name of mother, and conferred upon her the vice-regency of Liguria. At the age of sixty-nine she died, in 1115, at Bondeno de’ Roncori, and was buried, not among her kinsmen at Canossa, but in an abbey of St. Benedict near Mantua. With her expired the main line of the noble house she represented; though Canossa, now made a fief of the empire in spite of Matilda’s do-nation, was given to a family which claimed descent from Bonifazio’s brother Conrad, a young man killed in the battle of Coviolo. This family, in its turn, was extinguished in the year 1570; but a junior branch still exists at Verona. It will be re-membered that Michel Angelo Buonarroti claimed kinship with the Count of Canossa ; and a letter from the count is extant acknowledging the validity of his pretension.
As far back as 1255 the people of Reggio destroyed the castle ; nor did the nobles of Canossa distinguish themselves in subsequent history among those families who based their despotisms on the débris of the imperial power in Lombardy. It seemed destined that Canossa and all belonging to it should remain as a mere name and memory of the outgrown Middle Ages. Estensi, Carraresi, Visconti, Bentivogli, and Gonzaghi belong to a later period of Lombard history, and mark the dawn of the Renaissance.
As I lay and mused that afternoon of May upon the short grass, cropped by two gray goats whom a little boy was tending, it occurred to me to ask the woman who had served me as guide whether any legend remained in the country concerning the Countess Matilda. She had often, probably, been asked this question by other travellers. Therefore she was more than usually ready with an answer, which, as far as I could understand her dialect, was this : Matilda was a great and potent witch, whose summons the devil was bound to obey. One day she aspired, alone of all her sex, to say mass; but when the moment came for sacring the elements a thunderbolt fell from the clear sky and reduced her to ashes.* That the most single-hearted handmaid of the Holy Church, whose life was one long devotion to its ordinances, should survive in this grotesque myth, might serve to point a satire upon the vanity of earthly fame. The legend in its very extravagance is a fanciful distortion of the truth.
I find that this story is common in the country round Canossa. It is mentioned by Professor A. Ferretti in his monograph entitled Canossa, Studi e Ricerche (Reggio, 1876), a work to which I am indebted, and which will repay careful study.