The journey to Rome was made by rail in four and a half hours, in a comfortable railway carriage built on the English plan. This city was reached in the evening, and our visit began with a very pleasant night’s rest at the Continental Hotel near the station. This is in the northern and new portion of the city, called the Stranger’s Quarter. Here the buildings are modern, the streets broad, and many of the edifices are imposing. There are numerous gardens, statuary, and, what is the peculiar glory of Rome, beautiful fountains. Street-cars, well regulated, run to different parts of the city, and in every way, Rome has been made, since the close of papal rule, worthy of its place as the capital of united Italy. But Rome is not particularly valued for her modern improvements and her cleanly appearance, though they claim attention. It is as the city of some of the most famous monuments of ancient and mediaeval times, of pagan and papal history, that Rome stands unique and far beyond a11 other cities of the globe. To the student of history she stands prominent before all other places on earth as the scene of many of the most important episodes of the world’s history.
But its description is now given by so many travelers that we shall not attempt an extended account of her vast treasures of past ages. In the southeastern part of the city is situated a small valley between the Palatine, Quirinal, and Capitoline Hills, every step of which causes the heart to bound with thrills of sensation that border on veneration. This tract varies in width, but is perhaps one hundred yards wide on the average, and is about one third of a mile in length. At its eastern extremity stands the Colosseum, at the western, the Capitoline Hill, on its southern border stands the Palatine Hill, and on its northern border, the Quirinal Hill. Through the center runs the Via Sacra, or Sacred Way. This way slopes upward from the Colosseum to the middle of the historic tract, where it is spanned by the Arch of Titus, and then descends to the valley in which lie the Forum and its rostrum and the Basilica, or Church of Julia.
The Colosseum is perhaps the most notable ruin in Rome, at least its appearance makes it the most conspicuous. It was begun by the Emperor Vespasian, and finished by Titus in A. n. 80. It was at first called the Amphitheater of Flavius, but received its present name later from the colossal statue of Nero which stood near, the ruins of the pedestal of which still remain. The building is an ellipse measuring two hundred and five by one hundred and seventy yards. A considerable portion of its walls still remain. Where they retain their full height it is one hundred and fifty-five feet. This immense building had no roof. There were four tiers of seats, the lower of which was occupied by the nobility. Remains of the balcony which was occupied by the emperor may still be seen. The gradations of society descended as the seats ascended, until in the fourth row were seated the plebeians, or common people. These looked down upon the cruel sports in the arena from a height of nearly or quite one hundred and fifty feet. There were seats for eighty thousand people, and standing room for twenty thousand more. The opening carnival of this theater lasted one hundred days, and was attended with a sacrifice of fifty thousand beasts. There are subterranean ways through which beasts and gladiators were led into the arena. The arena was also elliptical in form, and measured two hundred and eighty by one hundred and seventy-four feet. There are many rooms beneath the floor of the arena, and here an idea may be obtained of the massive character of the foundations. Since boyhood I had read of these famous ruins, but after all was not prepared for a sight of such impressive vastness and magnificence. And not the least impressive was the thought of the many thousands who had here given their lives as a testimony of their unyielding faith in Jesus.
The famous Appian Way starts from the Arch of Constantine, which stands very near the Colosseum. It is an old Roman road running to the south and southwest. Over it St. Paul was brought to Rome in captivity. It is lined with celebrated ruins, the most renowned of which are the majestic buildings of the Baths of Caracalla and the catacombs. The latter are subterranean burying-places consisting of passageways cut in the rocks, perhaps thirty feet under ground, which ramify in every direction, crossing each other at every angle. They are very extensive. There are some chambers in which early Christians used to meet for worship. It is a dreary place to visit, and one cannot repress the nervous fear that the guide will lose his way, in which case escape would seem irnpossible. One is therefore generally glad to reach the surface again. But we will return to the Via Sacra. Leaving the Arch of Constantine, which was mostly built by the destruction of that of Trajan, a better man than Constantine, we ascend a gentle slope toward the west, having ruins of shops and bazaars on the left and those of the temple of Rome on the right. Leaching the brow of the hill, we pass under the Arch of Titus built by Vespasian to celebrate the victory of Titus in the capture of Jerusalem. This structure, which is still quite complete, has a peculiar value as a witness of the truthfulness of the Bible record, for among the figures which illustrate Titus’s triumph are men bearing the treasures from the temple, and among them is plainly depicted the golden candlestick. It is positive evidence that such an article existed, and this in turn proves the existence of the temple and its services, thus establishing beyond dispute the history and ceremonies outlined in the Old Testament.
From this point we look west over the valley in which are the Roman Forum, and the ruins of numerous temples and churches, to describe which would exceed the space at our disposal. At the eastern end of the forum is the rostrum of Julius Caesar, from which Mark Antony delivered his impassioned address. At the western end is the old Roman rostrum, from which thundered the stirring eloquence of the orators and statesmen. On either end of the rostrum are the remains of a column. The one to the left was called the Umbilicus Romae, and was one of the many famed centers of the world. From this point, distances were measured to all parts of the great Roman empire, and the principal ones, it is said, were recorded on the pillar at the opposite end of the rostrum. Here I saw illustrated the significance of the word “rostrum.” Its primary meaning is the ” beak of a, bird, ” it also means the ” prow of a vessel.” In the edge of the platform are to be seen several mortises in which were placed tenons to hold in place the prows of vessels which had been captured by the Romans in a naval battle. And from this circumstance our word “rostrum ” comes. So also our word ” capitol ” was said to have risen from the fact that while excavating on the hill called the Capitoline, on which the capitol of Rome was afterward built, a skull was found wearing a brass band, upon which was the name Stolinus. And Caput (head) Stolinus became Capitol.
Several colonnades still remain in this valley marking the ruins of the temples of Concord, of Saturn, Castor and Pollux, and others. As we climb the Capitoline Hill, we pass the door of a church, and entering the vestibule, pay the priest a small sum and receive two little candles by the light of which we descend into the old Mamertine Prison. The first apartment consists of a rock-hewn room of comfortable size, but void of natural light. This was the prison, and just beneath this was the inner prison, or dungeon. Formerly the only entrance to this was a circular opening in the floor about two feet in diameter, through which prisoners were dropped, and out of which they were drawn if they ever emerged from the place, which was not usual. This place is now entered by a stairway, and consists of a round room fifteen feet across, seven feet in height in the middle, but lower at the walls. An iron door opens from this room to a passage-way leading to the celebrated Roman sewer, which empties into the Tiber. Into this dungeon, many hapless men were thrust never again to see the light of day. Very many were strangled and dragged through the passage-way to the sewer. Tradition has it, upon what seems to be good authority, that the upper apartment was the place in which Paul the apostle was confined by Nero, and from which he was taken to his death. Roman Catholic tradition claims that both Paul and Peter were imprisoned in the lower dungeon.
A visit to the Palatine Hill is of the utmost interest, for it carries one through the ruins of the palaces of the emperors. From it is obtained a view of the great circus built by Augus tus. Here, too, we obtain glimpses of what are said to be portions of the original wall of Rome, and the cave in which the wolf nursed Romulus and Remus. Here are traces of Etruscan buildings, and the valley beyond is said to be the scene of strife between the Sabines and the Romans.
But to many the Rome of a later period will be of greater interest. The central figure in mediaeval Rome is St. Peter’s church, the noblest structure of its kind, if not of any other kind, on the globe. This building stands on the spot where it is claimed that Peter suffered martyrdom. It covers nearly four acres of land and is said to have cost in construction fifty million dollars. It was consecrated in its present form in 1626, just one thousand three hundred years after its foundations were laid. The church is built in the form of a cross. The nave is six hundred and four feet in length, and the transept two hundred and sixty. The height of the arched ceiling is one hundred and fifty feet above the floor. The dome rises four hundred and fifty feet, and people may ascend in what looks from the ground to be a flag-staff to the copper ball, which will hold sixteen persons at once. Beneath the main dome is a noble bronze canopy built over a splendid altar. This canopy is ninety feet in height. The frescoes are largely done in mosaics, and include historical scenes wonderfully wrought out. The mosaics were to me the most remarkable feature of the buildings. Of course we saw the statue of St. Peter sitting upon a pedestal four feet high, accommodatingly placing his foot so that it projected in a very convenient position for kissing the toe. A multitude of people take the hint. A continual procession pass to the statue, deposit their osculatory sacrifice, and depart. In this manner the great toe has been entirely worn away and some portions of other toes have also disappeared. Near the main entrance, in the middle of the floor, is placed a dark, circular stone upon which many of the emperors of Rome have been crowned.
To the right as one enters St. Peter’s, is the Vatican palace, the residence of the pope. Between the church and the palace is the celebrated Sistine chapel, in which the popes are elected. The frescoes of this chapel are mostly by that great Italian, Michael Angelo, painter, sculptor, architect, and poet. At the farther end of the wall is the celebrated painting of the Judgment, a picture with a world-wide renown. The arched ceiling is covered with a representation of creation week. In the former picture the great Judge of the earth is represented in the center, while in the left-hand corner people are coming out of their graves. Among these the artist placed himself, with his hand resting upon Dante’s head. The righteous are ascending from the judgment into glory, while the lost are being plunged to perdition at the right of the observer, though at the left of the Judge. Among these unhappy ones is shown a monk contemporary with Angelo, against whom he had an ill feeling. It is said that the monk remonstrated, but the artist would make no change. The pope was appealed to, but he replied that if the artist had simply sent him to purgatory he could help him, but since he was sent to final perdition nothing could be done, and so it remains to this day.
Adjoining the chapel is the Vatican library and art gallery, out to attempt any description of these would Tic beyond oar design. The treasures of the ages are here, and vast indeed is their store. To the rear of the church, and some distance removed, is the sculpture gallery, of the extent of which some idea will be gained by the statement that there are more than one mile of corridors crowded with the most celebrated works of art from every country and from every age.
St. Peter’s and its surroundings are utterly beyond description for grandeur and vastness. Many days of constant visiting would not exhaust the interest and wonder which the accumulated treasures excite. It is said that in trinkets, ornaments, and various treasures there is more gold accumu-lated there than is in circulation in the kingdom of Italy.
Many other churches in Rome are worthy of mention even in connection with this one. That of St. John in Lateran is even more celebrated in the early history of the church. Four miles outside the old walls is St. Paul’s, and near the center of the city, St. Maggiore. These churches contain and repre sent in their structure almost incalculable wealth. Their priests serve in great pomp, clothed in splendid robes which glisten with jewels and gold. Besides those mentioned, there are scattered through the city other costly worshiping establishments which in any other city would attract wide attention. The Church of Rome is strongly entrenched in her ancient seat.
For some years the government has, to the joy of the people, been out of the hands of the church. But the efforts to erect a respectable government have involved Italy in a hope less entanglement of insolvency. The financial policy of the rulers has not been wise. The exigencies of the present military situation have forced intolerable burdens upon the poor people. The public debt amounts to eighty dollars per capita, and the annual interest is three dollars and fifty cents for each man, woman, and child. The common necessities of life are exorbitantly taxed to produce a revenue which always comes short of meeting the outlays. Notwithstanding this, and the untold poverty of the masses, there is sufficient money invested in the churches to redeem the public credit, relieve the exchequer, render the country happy, and feed the poor with bread in plenty. But it is hoarded in the name of Him who though he was rich, became poor that we through his poverty might be rich.
Italy is a beautiful and favored country, but Satan early took his seat there, and through his agents civil and ecclesiastical, he has made it the active scene of his machinations throughout its history. In no place is the gospel of peace and purity more needed than in Italy.
Florence, Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Milan, besides Naples and Rome, are cities in Italy which all travelers wish to visit, though some of them will hardly repay the trouble.
From Rome we go to Florence. The journey is a pleasant railway ride of six hours through an interesting country. The galleries of this city give it pre-eminence as the great center of art. The Ufizzi, or Florentine, gallery contains twenty-three chambers richly stored with the works of the old masters of painting and sculpture. One of these, the Tribune, contains the richest of all treasures, embracing several paintings by Raphael and the celebrated statue of the Venus de Medici. This famous work was taken in fragments from the ruins of an old Ronlan villa, and was held by the Medici family, from whom it was purchased by the government. In one room are two tables of Florentine mosaics, the price paid the Meclicis for one being nine hundred thousand francs, and the price of the other, five hundred thousand francs. Connected with the Ufizzi gallery by a covered foot-bridge across the river Arno is the almost equally celebrated Pitti gallery, also owned by the government. Another place of interest is the studio and office of Michael Angelo, remaining is he used them. The place where he did his writing would make but a small pantry. The wooden bench on which he sat, and the little desk at which he wrote are still there. Portraits of himself by himself hang about the rooms, and show him with a broken nose which he received in a fracas with another artist, for he was a man of fiery temper. But as a genius be has had but few if any equals. He died in 1563, and no man is more highly honored in the memory of his countrymen, not only for his genius, but for his benevolence and philanthropy.
St. Groce’s church, in Florence, contains the tomb of Michael Angelo, and above it is a design in marble by himself, executed by a pupil, in which three figures representing paint ing, poetry, and sculpture sit looking with sorrow upon the grave. So perfect is the representation of grief that tears came to my eyes as I looked upon what was to me the most wonderful revelation in marble I have ever seen. In front of the same church stands a majestic statue of Dante, and within the church lie the remains of Galileo, and other famous men.
The beautiful surroundings of Florence, the uniform courtesy of its citizens, and its balmy air, together with the vast treasures of art, make it an attractive place for visitors.
The only other stop we will make in Italy on this trip is at Milan. This city is about seven hours from Florence by rail. The route lies across the Appenine Mountains, where enchanting views of picturesque scenery are obtained. The city of Bologna, celebrated for its sausages, is passed. Its cathedral, one of the finest in the world, is the one chief attraction in Milan.
From this point we took the famous St. Gotthard Tunnel route across the Alps. The day proved to be all that could be desired, and the scenery grand beyond description. After passing the beautiful Lake Como, we reach the Swiss border at Chiasso, where customs are collected. After this Lakes Lugano and Maggiore were passed. Nestling among the mountains, they present scenes of rarest beauty. The railway undertakes the ascent to the St. Gotthard Pass through the valley of the brawling Ticino. But the river descends more abruptly than the railway can climb, hence it is necessary to gain altitude by bold engineering devices. There are four loop tunnels, where the line strikes directly into the heart of the mountains, and performing a circle of two or three miles, emerges directly over the entrance place, having gained perhaps sixty or seventy feet in height by the maneuver. The months of two of these tunnels are shown in the engraving. Continually the traveler is impressed by the stupendous mountains on every hand. The tunnels are numerous, but the most extended one is at the summit under the St. Gotthard Pass. This tunnel is nine and one fourth miles in length and its passage requires eighteen to twenty minutes. In the middle the greatest altitude is reached at three thousand seven hundred and eighty-six feet above the sea.
Emerging on the north side, we found a veritable northern winter waiting to receive us – deep snows and cold winds. The valley of the Reuss rapidly conducted us to the beautiful shores of lakes Zug and Lucerne. And at the close of the day our train reached the city of Lucerne. It had been a day long to be remembered. There are scenes of majestic grandeur in various parts of the world, but probably nothing that out-Switzerlands Switzerland.