Is it possible that the patron saints of cities should mould the temper of the people to their own likeness? St. George, the chivalrous, is champion of Ferrara. His is the marble group above the cathedral porch, so feudal in its mediæval pomp. He and St. Michael are painted in fresco over the south portcullis of the castle. His lustrous armor gleams with Giorgionesque brilliancy from Dossi’s masterpiece in the Pinacoteca. That Ferrara, the only place in Italy where chivalry struck any root, should have had St. George for patron, is at any rate significant.
The best-preserved relic of princely feudal life in Italy is this Castello of the Este family, with its sombre moat, chained draw-bridges, doleful dungeons, and unnumbered tragedies, each one of which may be compared with Parisina’s history. I do not want to dwell on these things now. It is enough to remember the Castello, built of ruddiest brick, time-mellowed with how many centuries of sun and soft sea-air, as it appeared upon the close of one tempestuous day. Just before evening the rain-clouds parted and the sun flamed out across the misty Lombard plain. The Castello burned like a hero’s funeral pyre, and round its high-built turrets swallows circled in the warm blue air. On the moat slept shadows, mixed with flowers of sunset, tossed from pinnacle and gable. Then the sky changed. A roof of thunder-cloud spread overhead with the rapidity of tempest. The dying sun gathered his last strength against it, fretting those steel-blue arch-es with crimson ; and all the fierce light, thrown from vault to vault of cloud, was reflected back as from a shield, and cast in blots and patches on the buildings. The Castle towered up rosy-red and shadowy sombre, enshrined, embosomed in those purple clouds; and momently ran lightning-forks like rapiers through the growing mass. Everything around, meanwhile, was quiet in the grass-grown streets. The only sound was a high, clear boy’s voice chanting an opera-tune.