Italy – A corridor of the Campo Santo

This truly wonderful view will give you some idea of the seemingly interminable extent of these corridors, and what we see here is but a small part of the whole. Many of these monuments, as you may readily perceive, are of marvellous richness and execution, showing a wonderful power to imprison soul and emotion in cold marble. The profusion of marble here is almost incredible, and the magical effects in the snowy stone, reproducing lace, embroidery, the texture of a garment, the fold of a robe, the lining of a coal flap, the smooth gloss of silk, and even the warm tints of flesh, are surprising. There is nothing of chill or gloom here, but rather, as we have said, it is a bright, beautiful palace of the dead, who themselves seem to have already risen from their graves, appearing before you in radiant though petrified forms.

The inscriptions on these tombs are interesting, many of them being deeply pathetic, as on the tomb of a little child, the words, dictated I am sure, by a mother’s hand, “A rividerla mamma!” and on another, ” To my murdered daughter!” Sometimes the epitaph is remarkably ingenious and well nigh humorous, as the one to Giovanni Verrocchio, ” who, by his vociferous patriotism and ingenious manipulation of public affairs, succeeded in remaining in office for many years, and, thus, happily, was able to greatly increase the wealth of his family.”

One fine piece of sculpture in this corridor rep-resents a beautiful young widow weeping over the dead body of her husband, and, as these mounments are frequently intended to perpetuate the grief of some survivor for the dead, the statue is an exact representation of the form and features of the bereaved. Just beside it is another statue, erected forty years after, an exact representation of the same woman, now a stout, phlegmatic widow, weeping over the dead form of her husband, a fat and aged spouse. It is to be hoped that, for the sake of the artistic embellishment of the cemetery, she will not have the hardihood to marry again and so inflict upon a long suffering public another and later representation of herself weeping over her third departed.

The echo in this corridor is something wonderful as it rises and falls in ever widening circles, until, at last, it dies away in some remote corner. And to hear a clear, strong voice, sweet as a flute and clear as the note of a bugle, singing down the corridors, as I heard an American lady singing here, is worth all the trouble and expense incurred in coming to the place. You will notice on the floor in front of the tombs, wreaths and artificial flowers, placed there by surviving friends as tributes of loving remembrance to the dead. Receptacles for the dead are placed beneath the pavement of the corridor, and the stones covering these bear the names of those buried beneath them, with the date of birth and death, and an inscription. You will observe that the inscriptions near the center of the corridor are worn away by the feet of visitors. The first figure to the right, representing the Angel of Death, is full of dignity and repose. There is nothing ghostly about it, but the wavy locks of the hair, the flowing beard, the meditative air, the benign expression of the strong but noble face, the rounded form and the realistic folds of the drapery, produce a profound yet pleasing impression. In the adjoining niche, where the Angel of the Resurrection is raising that young girl from the tomb, you see another work of art; for the sweet face and lovely form, which is revealed rather than concealed by the gauze-like folds of the winding sheet, are the products of considerable skill and artistic genius, the work of a true sculptor, not of a common stonecutter as many of our monuments are.

About sixty-five miles to the southeast of Genoa, near the mouth of the Avenza River, is Carrara. It may be quickly found on the general map of Italy. We go there now.