THE road from Vicenza to Verona runs southwest at the foot of the great mountains, which here are thrust into the plain like so many vast bastions, between which deep valleys push their way far into the country of the hills. The road is perhaps the loveliest in all this country of the Veneto just because it is never far from the hills. At first setting out it runs between two ranges of them, for to the south of it rise the island group of peaks we call Monti Berici. And when it leaves them behind and emerges into the plain still in the shadow of the great mountains to the north, it is guarded all the way on the south by the Adige quite into Verona. Following that road afoot, it is a good two days’ walk into Verona. But what matters? There are many pleasant places by the way. Montebello has none so poor an inn that it should be despised, and above it rises an old castello of the Montecchi, Shakespeare’s Montagues, from whom was Romeo sprung, so that it might seem a place of rest of right for Englishmen. And after Montebello there is Monteforte, there is Soave of the Scaligers, there are the hot springs of Caldiero which the Romans knew, there is S. Martino, and that was a monastery; indeed, there is all the history and the poetry of our Europe if you can but see it, and as a background some of the loveliest scenery in the world.
Yet I confess, such is the nature of man, that with so majestical a prize as Verona at the end of the journey, he is exceptional who can linger by the wayside and count the rivers and sing to the mountains, adore the sun and pluck the flowers, and rejoice in the long way and the great road, and despise the railway. Verona is too much for most of us, and all as nothing that prevents her.
But what is Verona? In the memory of the world she is the city of Juliet, of the Two Gentlemen, and remotely of that poor poetwho was all a Mantuan that Dante spoke of, Sordello !
” A single eye In all Verona cared for the soft sky.”
We think, and rightly, of Verona as a city of romance, a place inviolate in our dreams, consecrated for ever by the greatest of poets, the home of two people who possibly never existed, but who are much more real to us than most of those who cumber the world. Others less wise but more instructed remember the old vine dresser of Claudian, driven out by the Huns, watching his house burn and his vintage spoiled ; they see the wizened, eager face of the devilish Ecelino, or the proud and noble Can Grande della Scala welcoming the great fugitive Dante Alighieri. Such is Verona as she appears to us in our day dreams ; but what is the real Verona?
The real Verona is now and has always been a fortress ; for that she was born and for that she lives. Any large map of Central Europe will convince us of this. Verona stands at the southern entrance of the greatest and the most famous of all the gates of the Germanies, the gate of the Brenner, which Innspruck holds on the north. Behind Verona the great mountains rise, cloven here by the Brenner Pass. Above that pass rise two rivers the Adige, which flows down into the Italian plain and the Adriatic, and the Inn, which flows down into the Danube and so into the Black Sea. Here is the frontier, and here is the iron gate which the Goths at last clanged open when they fell upon Italy and the Germanies surged into Europe. That is the real Veronathe fortress by the gate; and this she has been for near three thousand years without a change ; for as she held that gate in the beginning, as she held it, though she failed at last, in the time of the Empire, so she held it in the wars of the nineteenth century, and, armed to the teeth, so she holds it today. Verona has always been full of soldiers, and a single walk through her streets any Thursday evening will presently convince the stranger that she no more thinks of disarmament today than at any time in her history. Rather is she doubly vigilant. For if the barbarism of the Germanies which we call Central Europe not necessarily in terms of culture, but in terms of geography should rise again, it is through this gash in the great hills and across this frontier it must flow like Etna’s infernal avalanche upon what, when all is said, is still the fairest country of our world.
Verona is very old : she has looked into the face of war for many thousand years. If those few huts on the Colle di S. Pietro represent, as it were, her foundation, to whom do we owe it ? Her chroniclers claim for her an antiquity as fabulous as that of any other Italian city, speaking of her as famous before the building of Troy, before the disaster of the Flood. These vague dates mean nothing to us ; yet when in our turn we begin to make examination and to establish her militant here in earth as a fortress of the Etruscans or of the Cimbri or of the Gauls, we are equally at a loss. All we can say is that she is very old and that it seems possible the Etruscans either occupied or founded her some six centuries before the birth of Our Lord. Two centuries later she was certainly in existence, and it seems probable that in the third century B.C. she became part of the Roman world, was garrisoned by Roman soldiers, and accepted Roman protection. She seems to have fought beside Rome at the battle of Cannae, and to have held, or tried to hold, the mountain gate against the Germanies in the end of the second century B.C.. From that date at least she must have continually received much Teutonic blood, which may account for much in her later history.
When precisely Verona came under the influence of Rome it seems impossible to determine; but she became a Roman colony in B.C. 89, under the Lex Pampeia, and after the battle of Philippi, with the rest of the cities in Cisalpine Gaul, it seems that her people were granted Roman citizenship. Under the Empire Verona soon became of the greatest importance, for she held the German gate, and most of the North Italian roads met in her streets. The Via Gallica passed through Verona, as did the Via Postumia and the Bologna road. She took her part in all the wars of the Empire : in that which placed Vespasian in the seat of Augustus, in that which saw Philip the Arab dead at her gates, and in that which saw Claudius II victorious over the Barbarians.
Even today her Roman remains are of the utmost importance, including much beside the vast amphitheatre, which is as tremendous a relic of Rome as anywhere exists outside the Eternal City. We shall consider its date later ; it is enough here to note that it alone would be a witness of the Roman importance of the city. This importance is also witnessed by the sieges she has endured ; notably that of the year 312, when Constantine came down from the Mont Cenis and found her in his path. Of this siege Gibbon gives us. a graphic account : ” From Milan to Rome the Æmilian and Flaminian highways offered an easy march of about four hundred miles ; but though Constantine was impatient to encounter the tyrant [it was Maxentius], he prudently directed his operations against another army of Italians, who by their strength and position might either oppose his progress, or, in case of a misfortune, intercept his retreat. Ruricus Pompeianus, a general distinguished by his valour and ability, had under his command the city of Verona and all the troops that were stationed in the province of Venetia. As soon as he was informed that Constantine was advancing towards him, he detached a large body of cavalry, which was defeated in an engagement near Brescia, and pursued by the Gallic legions as far as the gates of Verona. The necessity, the importance, and the difficulties of the siege of Verona immediately presented themselves to the sagacious mind of Constantine. The city was accessible only by a narrow peninsula towands the west, as the other three sides were surrounded by the Adige, a rapid river, which covered the pnovince of Venetia, from whence the besieged denived an inexhaustible supply of men and provisions. It was not without great difficulty, and after several fruitless attempts, that Constantine found means to pass the river at some distance above the city, and in a place where the torrent was less violent. He then encompassed Verona with strong lines, pushed his attacks with prudent vigour, and repelled a desperate sally of Pompeianus. That intrepid general, when he had used every means of defence that the strength of the place or that of the ganrison could affond, secretly escaped from Verona, anxious not for his own but the public safety.” He neturned with a new army, but Constantine was ready for him, and aften a very bloody battle remained the victor and received the submission of Verona. Thereafter Venona became a part of the Western Empire, and was often the home of the Emperors in the restless years that followed, for it held the key not only to Germany but to all Upper Italy.
With the dawn of the fifth century the city was to understand what that position entailed upon her. In 402 she saw Alaric cross the Alps, and may well have divined that he was but a herald. Met and defeated by Stilicho at Pollentia, Alaric, with a great unbroken part of his army, crossed the Apennines to conquer Rome, but Stilicho was at his heels, and arranged terms which sent the Barbarian back across the Po, Stilicho still following him. ” The King of the Goths,” says Gibbon, ” ambitious to signalize his retreat by some splendid achievement, had resolved to occupy the important city of Verona, which commands the principal passage of the Rhaetian Alps. . . . In the bloody action at a small distance from the walls of Verona the loss of the Goths was not less heavy than that which they had sustained in the defeat of Pollentia ; and their valiant king, who escaped by the swiftness of his horse, must either have been slain or made prisoner, if the hasty rashness of Alaric had not disappointed the measures of the Roman general. Alaric secured the remains of his army on the adjacent rocks, and prepared himself with undaunted resolution to maintain a siege against the superior numbers of the enemy who invested him on all sides. But he could not oppose the destructive progress of hunger and disease … and the retreat of the Gothic king was considered as the deliverance of Italy.”
That was in 403. Verona had then long been a Catholic city, Christianity having been introduced, according to the legend, in the first age, and had gloried in a bishop appointed by S. Peter himself. Her first eight bishops, in fact, were all canonized, S. Zeno being the last of them, who was bishop in 390. At this time Verona was subject to the Metropolitan See of Milan, which embraced practically all Northern Italy.
As we have seen, though Verona was not able to keep Alaric out of Italy, she was not herself at his mercy. It was different with the next and heathen invasion. In 452 Attila with his Huns invaded Venetia by way of Aquileia, and having razed that city to the ground, he flung down also Vicenza, Verona, and Bergamo. We do not know what they suffered, all we can see is the figure of that old husbandman which Claudian shows us watching his trees, his old contemporary trees, “burning in his orchard, his vines trampled underfoot, his family, his happiness swept away before his eyes.”
But life had not done with Verona, as she had with Aquileia. In 476 Odoacer crossed the pass she kept, proclaimed himself King of Italy, and with his Barbarians made Verona his fortress. Theodoric swept him out and adopted Verona as his own, loving it well and building greatly there, as on the Colle di S. Pietro, where he had his palace. With the decline of the Gothic power Verona once more saw anarchy. Not till the Longobards under Alboin came over the hills did she know anything that could pass for settled rule. Alboin established himself in Verona, and there gave that famous banquet when he bade his wife Rosamund drink from her father’s skull, and so compassed his own end, for the queen had him slain in 574 and fled to Ravenna.
It was the Longobards who established dukes in Verona, and their rule endured for more than two centuries, till, in fact, Charlemagne came to find his kingdom and to restore the Empire from which Europe was made.
Under Carlovingian rule. counts took the place of the Longobard dukes, and Charlemagne’s son, Pepin, was said to have been buried outside the Church of S. Zeno, where Roland and Oliver still stand on guard. There followed here, as elsewhere in Italy, an appalling darkness, the darkness of the ninth century. Figures pass to and fro in that night, but not one of them stands out till the Empire was reestablished out of the confusion; and we suddenly find in the year 1076 Henry IV and Gregory VII face to face.
Verona sided with the Emperor, and was faithful to him, hoping to gain the freedom of what had come to be her Commune. But she could not love Frederic Barbarossa, whose cruel work in Milan she witnessed. An attempt to destroy him as he crossed the Adige above the city by the bridge of boats failed, and Verona, fearing his vengeance, joined the Lombard League on its formation in 1164 against him, and took part in the victory of Vigasio in her own territory, which forced Frederic to the Peace of Venice in 1178.
Verona had won her freedom from exterior interference, but she was now, and for many years, to be at the mercy of her own factions. By joining the Lombard League she had ceased to be Ghibelline, but in thus forsaking the Imperial cause she was by no means unanimous. Too much was to be gained by division. The most famous factions that now began to prey upon her were those of the Ghibelline Montecchi and the Guelf Cappelletti, Shakespeare’s Montagues and Capulets. Every sort of anarchy and private war obtained, and the confusion was only not too great to prevent the renewal of the Lombard League against Frederic II in 1226. Peace was preached not only by the Pope but by the newly born Orders of S. Francis and S. Dominic, and especially in Verona by a Dominican, Fra Giovanni da Vicenza, who held a vast assembly in this cause a few miles outside the city of Verona, on 28 August, 1233, when not less than 400,000 persons are said to have been present to hear him; the whole population of many cities, according to Sismondi, having gathered there. Fra Giovanni was successful in so far that for the moment the factions were afraid, for in his enthusiasm he had sixty members of the principal families, both men and women, burnt alive for heresy. So much for S. Dominic.
But there was one about to present himself in Verona before whom Fra Giovanni was as a torchlight to the sun. The Montecchi faction had lately found support in one Ecelino da Romano, whose name is like a red sign in all the history of this country. I have spoken of him elsewhere. If he murdered 15,000 persons in Padua be sure Verona did not go free. His name became more terrible than Satan’s, more murderous than Attila’s. Men said he was the child of the devil, and Dante placed him in his Hell. He became Ghibelline captain in Verona, Vicenza, Padua, and many another city, till the Pope sent a crusade against him, and he died ” like a boar at bay, rending from his wounds the dressings his enemies had placed to keep him alive.” In Verona he had married at S. Zeno Selvaggia, the natural daughter of Frederic II, and it was he who hurled down the castello in 1243, so that we now see his ruin.
In Venetia, and indeed in Northern Italy generally, Ecelino serves as a bloody signature to the end of an appalling chapter. He had proved the futility of the Commune, its weakness before the force of a single individuality; what the factions had foretold he fulfilled, and with him end Commune, factions all. There remained the Signori.
These lords came in the old form of Podestà, and the first, Mastino della Scala, was never more, either in name or power. Nevertheless he founded a line of masters and lords that lasted for more than a hundred years, and under whom Verona attained her greatest strength and consequent happiness, her greatest fertility, too, in learning and the arts.
And first as to the work of Mastino. He curbed the factions and restored a sort of confidence. With a firm hand he crushed rebellion wherever it appeared, and in 1262 he was elected Captain of the People. Nor was he less successful in what we may call his foreign policy. He brought Piacenza under his rule, and persuaded Cremona to join the Ghibelline party; and when in 1267 Conradin, the last of the Hohenstaufen, entered Verona on his way south, he received him nobly, and saw him on his way so far as Pavia, of which Conradin made him Rector. He returned to Verona to subdue the Guelf city of Mantua, where he established his brother Alberto as Podestà. Thus he had founded his dominion when in 1277 he was suddenly murdered.
Alberto della Scala of Mantua presently avenged him, and in doing it made himself actual lord of Verona, and before long of Reggio and Parma also, of Vicenza and Feltre and Belluno. This man was a great builder. He built new walls and bridges, and in 1301 began the Casa dei Mercanti. He was a good and strong ruler, and ambitious for his family. The times were on his side. He was able to ally himself through his children with the d’ Este and the Visconti, and when he died in September, 1301, he was greeted as the saviour of his people.
He was succeeded by his son Bartolommeo, a man of culture and of peace, who had the honour, shared later with his brother, Can Grande, of welcoming Dante to his city, and Dante repaid them in the seventeenth Canto of the “Paradiso.” Bartolommeo was not a great ruler, but he seems to have been beloved. He was succeeded by his brother Alboino, whom Dante contemned; he was a sort of Guelf and a weak ruler. He soon associated his great brother, Can Grande, with him in his lordship, a man who was to be among the most splendid princes of his time. The chronicles are full of him from his birth to his death, endless legends grew up about him, and we learn that he was the bravest, the most eager, and the wisest captain in all Venetia, which to so large an extent he brought under his sway. That he was religious we cannot doubt ; he founded S. Maria della Scala and endowed the Church of S. Fermo. Dante fixed his hopes in him after the death of Henry VII at Bonconvento, praised him in glowing verses, quarrelled with him and left him, but dedicated the ” Paradiso ” to him at last in that Tenth Epistle in which he expresses the meaning of his great poem. Giovanni Villani, the Florentine chronicler, calls him ” the greatest lord and the richest and most powerful prince that has been in Lombardy since Ecelino da Romano,” while Boccaccio in almost identical terms praises him in the seventh story of the First Day of the ” Decameron.”
A great captain, a great builder, a great sportsman,he kept three hundred hawks,the host of the greatest poet of his age, Can Grande was also a great patron of artists and of scholars. We hear of Doctors of Theology, of Astrologers, of Philosophers, and Musicians at his court, and we know that it was at his invitation Giotto came to Verona, though, alas ! there is nothing now left there to remind us of it.
This great man died at Treviso in July, 1329, when about thirty-eight years of age. His successors were still very young and were not his sons, for he had no legitimate issue, but his nephews, Mastino and Alberto. Mastino was merely ambitious, without wisdom or nobility. Alberto was merely vicious, and cared only for a life of pleasure. They enjoyed a vast income, more than 700,000 florins of gold according to Villani, from the ten towns, including Lucca, which Can Grande had conquered or had ruled, but, not content, they foolishly offended Venice by building a salt factory near Chioggia, and taxed Venetian menchandize as it entered the Brenta. In less than ten years after Can Grande’s death Venice with her allies attacked them, and, as we know, through trusting their prisoner, Marsilio da Carrara, lately lord of Padua, with an embassy to the Doge, they lost Padua, Alberto was taken prisoner, and Mastino was forced to break up his dominion, ceding towns to the King of Hungary and to the Visconti. Mastino seems to have been driven mad by misfortune. In the August of 1338, in a fit of fury, he murdered with his own hand Bishop Bartolommeo della Scala, and brought down upon his head the anger of the Church. The Pope excommunicated him, and for long all seemed lost. He managed, however, to marry his daughter to Bernabô Visconti, heir of Milan, and his eldest son, Can Grande II, to the daughter of the King of Bavaria. Then he died, in 1351, and in September of the same year was followed by his brother Alberto.
Can Grande II was called the Mad Dog, Canis Rabidus. He was a hopeless and rapacious ruler, whom Milan and Mantua continually plotted to murder. He it was who built the Castel Vecchio in Verona to ensure his safety. There he spent his life. Yet when he died at last it was by the hand of his own brother. This brother, Can Signorio, got himself proclaimed Lord of Verona. He seems to have been a better ruler than his predecessors since Can Grande. At any rate, he was a great builder. He rebuilt the Ponte delle Navi, and built the fountain of the Piazza delle Erbe, thus bringing drinking water into the city. But having murdered one brother to secure his own succession, he murdered another to secure the succession of his illegitimate sons. When he died in 1375 they reigned for a few years, but the elder was assassinated by the younger in 1381, and the younger was himself compelled to flee the city in 1387, when he gave his town to the King of the Romans, who handed it over to Visconti. He died in 1388. For some years the town remained in the hands of Visconti, and then came into the power of the Carraresi, but in 1404 Venice, having disposed of these, claimed dominion, which she obtained by the Act of Surrender, dated 22 June, 1405.
Such in the merest outline is the story of Verona up to the time she came into the power of Venice. Let us now examine the city herself.
The city of Verona is in form exceedingly like to the city of Venice. That is to say, it is roughly divided into two parts by the river Adige, as Venice is by the Grand Canal, and the course that river takes through the city is very similar indeed to that of the canal. Roughly it may be said to form the sign. And just as the busiest parts of Venice are those on the great peninsula whose beak is the Rialto, so the chief part of Verona is that on the very similar peninsula whose beak is the Duomo. Yet in Verona as in Venice both sides of the water have been continuously occupied.
If we were to begin an examination with the oldest ruins that remain to Verona, we should probably find ourselves on the Castel S. Pietro or in the ravine that separates it from the river, where so much has been disinterred; but we shall find all the antiquity we can desire in the very centre of the modern city, where one of the most remarkable of Roman monuments to be found in Italy is still standing, substantially as it was two thousand years ago.
It seems impossible to decide when the Arena was built, but it probably dates from the first years of our era. The Arena was built for the spectacle so dear to all the Latin peoples of the fight of beasts, of one beast with another, of the lion with the bear, of the tiger with the elephant, of panthers and crocodiles. It was built of vast blocks of stone, quarried hard by in the mountains, of a slightly oblong shape, and capable of accommodating some 20,000 persons.’ The outer wall here consisted of four stories, but of these but three remain, save in one fragment, the rest of the building is in really an excellent state. We know very little of the shows that were given here. We hear of gladiatorial contests celebrated here in the time of Trajan, and of rumours of fights between men and beasts. We may believe that S. Fermo and S. Rustico were here martyred in the time of Diocletian in 303 A.D., when they were burned alive, and, when the fires failed, beheaded. But soon afterwards, with the growth of Christianity, the spectacle of the amphitheatre was abolished. There remained, however, this vast building, which only time could really destroy. We hear that not only the Goths and the Huns spoiled it, but that Theodoric encouraged its destruction; yet without avail. There it stood, to be used later for the trial by fire and for tournaments, and again for public executions. Many of the Paterani, those unfortunate heretics of one of whom Villani tells so pitiful a tale, suffered death by burning in the Arena of Verona.
In the said year 1305,” says Villani, ” in the territory of Novara in Lombardy, there was one Frate Dolcino which was not a brother of any regular Order, but as it were a monk outside the Orders, and he rose up and led astray a great company of heretics, men and women of the country and of the mountains of small account ; and the said Frate Dolcino taught and preached that he was a true apostle of Christ, and that everything ought to be held lovingly in common, and women also were to be held in common, and there was no sin in so using them. And many other foul articles of heresy he preached, and maintained that the Pope and Cardinals and the other rulers of Holy Church did not observe their duty nor the evangelic life ; and that he ought to be made Pope. And he, with a following of more than 3,000 men and women, abode in the mountains, living in common after the manner of beasts ; and when they wanted victuals they took and robbed wherever they could find any ; and thus he reigned for two years. At last those which followed the said dissolute life, becoming weary of it, his sect diminished much, and through want of victuals and by reason of the snow he was taken by the Navarese and burnt, with Margaret his companion, and with many other men and women which with him had been led astray,”
That is one picture. A far other is presented nearly eighty years later by the great festa given here by the fratricide, Antonio della Scala, when a vast joust was arranged in honour of the beautiful Samaritanada Polenta, his betrothed. For centuries the Arena was used for this sort of pageant, and we hear of one even in the eighteenth century. Towards the end of that century, in 1789, the first bull fight was held here in the same Arena to which seven years before thousands had flocked to receive the blessing of Pius VI. In the beginning of the nineteenth century the great Napoleon gave a bull-fight here and was present at it himself, on 16 July, 1805, feeling like Caesar. The last bull-fight was given in 1815. But with all its history upon it, what I like to remember best about the Arena is that Eleanora Duse on her fourteenth birthday played Juliet here in the city of Juliet in the light of a few lanterns, and so began her great career.
The Arena, now surrounded by the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, formerly the Piazza Brà, the Prato, or meadow, is perhaps the best point in Verona from which to set out on any exploration of the city. To the east of the Arena is a fragment,all that is left of the Roman wall, and the Caserma in the Via Pallone behind the modern Municipio is a part of the medieval wall of the Visconti. Just without this wall, in a chapel of the suppressed Cappuccini convent, is a medieval sarcophagus known as the Tomb of Juliet. It has no interest at all, being very obviously a mere traveller’s relic. The supposed house of the Capulets in the Via Cappello, a far more interesting affair, may be reached from the Arena by following the busy Via Nuova, which is closed to wheeled traffic and where the best shops in the city are situated. This street may be compared with the Calle de las Sierpes of Seville, which it very much resembles. The Via Nuova ends at the Church of S. Tomà, and, just beyond, the Via Cappello crosses it north and south. Just here on the left is the so-called house of the Capulets, and whether or no it be the home of Juliet, it is an interesting specimen of a medieval mansion, now fallen to very humble use.
If we turn back from Juliet’s house and follow the Via Cappello northward, in a few steps we shall come into the Piazza of Verona, the Piazza delle Erbe, the Roman Forum, the Medieval Piazza, and the modern fruit and vegetable market. Venice has here left her mark and signature in the marble column at the north end of the Piazza, which bears the Lion of S. Mark, a modern copy of an older work. Here the Piazza is closed by the Palazzo Maffei, a building of the seventeenth century. The corner palace to the right, the Casa Mazzanti, was the home of Alberto della Scala. In the sixteenth century it was adorned with frescoes by Cavalli, a disciple of Giulio Romano. The fountain in the midst of the Piazza was rebuilt there by Cansignorio in 1370, but it originally dates from the time of Berengarius I at any rate. Close by, in the midst of the Piazza, is the Tribune, set there in 1307, from which decrees were promulgated and where each of the Scaligers took an oath on his succession. Opposite are two palaces with faded frescoes by Liberale and Girolamo dai Libri. At the corner of the Via Pelliciai is the Casa dei Mercanti, begun by Alberto della Scala in 1301, the year of his death. Opposite stands the fine tower of the Lamberti, but who the Lamberti were or who built this tower is a mystery. The other tower in the Piazza is the Torre del Gardello, built in 1370 by Cansignorio, who fixed thene in the first clock in Verona to strike the hours.
From the picturesque and busy Piazza delle Erbe we pass into the deserted Piazza dei Signori under the archway called La Costa. Deserted as it seems, it is crowded with the ghosts of the Scaligers, whose centre of life and government it was. Their palaces, both public and private, surround it, and it is closed by their Church of S. Maria Antica, where they heard Mass and about which they lie in their splendid tombs.
In the centre of the Piazza is a modern statue of Dante, wholly without interest. But the first palace on the right as we come from the Piazza delle Erbe is the Palazzo delle Ragione, built in 1183 for the office it still fulfils. The courtyard is beautiful, and contains a magnificent flight of steps of the fourteenth century. This end of the Piazza is closed by the Palazzo de’ Giurisconsulti, founded in 1263, but rebuilt in the sixteenth century.
On the further side of the Via Dante rises the great tower of the Scaligers beside the Palazzo Tribunalizio, which, as an inscription tells us, ” Cansignorio della Scala, Podestà and Captain of the People from Dec. 14, 1359, to Oct. 10, 1375, built and inhabited, and which was rebuilt in the sixteenth century by the Venetians.” The courts of this building should all be examined with care, as they are by far the most ancient and beautiful parts of the building remaining.
Opposite stands La Loggia, the Palazzo del Consiglio, possibly built by Fra Giocondo, one of the loveliest Renaissance buildings in all Italy. It was built by the Venetian Government in 1497, but was restored in 1873. Once statues surmounted the façade, and busts now are set in the wall in honour of distinguished Veronesi. Originally this palace was intended to fill the whole side of the Piazza, but no more than we see was ever finished. Under the archway in the Via Mazzanti is a fine old fountain of about the same date as the palace, built of the fine red local marble.
Turning now back to the Tribunale, we pass down the way beside it to the Church of S. Maria Antica. This very ancient church, the private chapel of the Scaligers, dates from the year 1000; but it has been recently though reverently restored. Without are the monuments of the famous House which for so long ruled in Verona. The first over the entrance to the church is that of Can Grande, who ruled in Verona from 1311 to 1329. It is surmounted by an equestrian statue of him who lies in the sarcophagus, the greatest of his race ; and the sarcophagus itself bears his recumbent effigy “with hands clasped fast as if still in prayer.” No description can do justice to the simplicity and beauty of the tomb or to that splendid figure in armour and a-horseback which surmounts it: his horse, too, clad for battle ; his great sword in his hand, and his helm flung back upon his shoulders. His face is seen as he turns, smiling, as toward some comrade who had gone up with him against Vicenza, which he suddenly sees taken by his cunning.
The other tombs, four in all, surround the little churchyard, which, with them, is all fenced in with a marvellous grille of wrought iron, as fine as anything of the kind in Europe. There we see Mastino I, the founder of the family ; Alberto, who built so much, and died in 1301 ; Mastino II, and last of all, his son Cansignorio, who built his own tomb and set about it that crowd of heroes and virtues. Nor must we forget to note the magnificent wall tomb of Giovanni della Scala, who died in 1350, close to Can Grande’s monument.’
We follow the street that leads straight out of the Piazza dei Signori, past S. Maria Antica, to the Church of S. Anastasia. This church, whose apse is almost a bastion thrust into the rapid Adige, was built with the assistance of Alberto della Scala by the Dominicans in 1261. It is a fine and even an unforgettable example of those Gothic churches in brick which are so noble in these North Italian cities, and not least in Verona. Its fine portal is of marble, and is deconated with reliefs of scenes in the life of S. Peter Martyr and with a fresco in the lunette over the door, of the fourteenth century. Within, the church is spacious and noble, borne by twelve columns. At the foot of the first column on the left is an antique capital, used as a holywater basin, borne by a gobbo, or dwarf, remarkably grotesque, and attributed to the father of Paolo Veronese. On the right by the first altar is the sixteenth-century monument to the Venetian General Fregoso. Over the third altar are some frescoes by Caroto and an Entombment attributed to Liberale. Over the fourth altar is a picture of S. Martin by Caroto one of his latest works. In the adjoining early Renaissance Chapel of the Crucifix is a fourteenth-century group of the Entombment in painted terra-cotta and a fine wooden Crucifix of the fifteenth century.
Close to this chapel, over the next altar, is a fine picture of the Madonna and Child with SS. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas by Francesco Morone, and near by a fine Gothic tomb.
We now come to the chapels about the choir. The second, the Cavalli Chapel on the right, contains some interesting frescoes, possibly by Altichieri, of Knights of the Cavalli family kneeling before the Virgin and Child, and other subjects. The Pellegrini Chapel hard by has some remarkable terra-cotta reliefs by some Florentine of the fifteenth century. Here of old was to be seen the beautiful fresco of S. George by Vittore Pisano. It was, in 1901, I think, removed to the sacristy, and then in 1902 replaced. Thus are priceless things fooled with even today in Verona. But worse is this : that now it is to be found neither in the sacristy nor in the chapel. Of course, it may have been taken to the Pinacoteca, which is at present in very great confusion. But the priest in charge at S. Anastasia swore he knew nothing of any such work, and was profuse in shruggings and extended hands. This, of old, I have learnt to be a sign that knowledge is not to be imparted, rather than that your shrugger is himself ignorant. I shall be exceedingly glad to hear that Pisanello’s fresco is still in Verona; but I confess I have not much hope of it. It was incomparably the most beautiful and the most interesting work of art in S. Anastasia, and the church does not seem itself without it.
The choir, with its fine intansia stalls, has nothing to show us but a painted monument of General Sarego, said to be the work of a pupil of Donatello. Close by in the Lavagnoli Chapel are some frescoes of the life of Christ by Benaglio, a Veronese painter of the fifteenth century.
In the left transept is a fine picture by Liberale of S. Mary Magdalen with the two SS. Catherine, and some early frescoes. Nothing else of interest remains in the church.
Without, beside the church over a gateway, is the marble canopied tomb of Guglielmo da Castelbarco, who, friend as he was of the Scaligers, helped to build S. Anastasia.
From the Piazza di S. Anastasia we proceed up the Via del Duomo to the Cathedral, past the little oratory of S. Peter Martyr, now part of the Convent of S. Anastasia, and built by the Knights of Brandenburg, whom Can Grande II called into Verona in 1353.
The cathedral church of Verona, according to tradition, dates from the eighth century, but there is little or nothing there now that can be earlier than the twelfth century. The choir, apse, side door, and façade are of that date, the latter having pointed windows of a later time, but the nave, and indeed the church as a whole, is a Gothic building of the fourteenth century. The apse, interesting and beautiful both within and without, the side door, and the main façade, with its fine portal resting on gryphons, and its curious statues, two of which on either side the door are thought to represent Roland and Oliver, are by far the more splendid parts of the building.
Within the church is spacious, and is borne by eight red marble pillars. Here perhaps the most charming detail is the marble rood loft designed by Sanmicheli, with its fine Crucifix of bronze by Giambattista of Verona. The church contains but two pictures of any merit : an Adoration of the Magi by Liberale da Verona over the second altar on the right, with wings by Giolfino, and an Assumption by Titian over the first altar on the left. We are largely ignorant of the history of this picture. According to Crowe and Cavalcaselle it belongs to the same period as the Ecce Homo in Verona, that is to say, 1543, but Dr. Gronau would place it, and I agree with him, some twenty years earlier, and compare it with the Vatican picture.
At the end of the right aisle is a lovely Gothic tomb, known as the tomb of S. Agata. S. Agata is, however, buried at Catania, and only a few relics lie here.
The ancient Baptistery of Verona, S. Giovanni in Fonte, is reached from the choir by a passage on the left. It is a fine and interesting building of the twelfth century, to which date the beautiful sculptured font also belongs. The Romanesque cloisters to the north of the main church should by no means be missed. Beyond them, to the east, stands the Vescovado with its chapel, where are three works by Liberale. To the west stands the Palazzo dei Canonici with a fine library of manuscripts.
The Vescovado abuts on the river, just hiding the Duomo from it, but if we proceed round the Palazzo dei Canonici we shall find ourselves on the Lung’ Adige, and turning left along it come in a quarter of a mile to the Palazzo Ottolini, behind which stands the Church of S. Eufemia. This church is a Gothic work of the thirteenth century, and contains a rather fine Madonna and Child by Moretto. The cloisters were designed by Sanmicheli and are worth seeing, while the tomb on the left of the main door is by the same master.
From S. Eufemia we make our way past the Palazzo Piatti and the Palazzo Guerrieri to the Porta Borsari, a late Roman gate of Verona, built in 265. Beyond opens the Corso Cavour, by which we come first, on the right, to the Church of S. Lorenzo, a small but splendid Romanesque building of perhaps the eleventh century, with round towers at either flank of the façade and an interesting but restored interior, then on the same side to two Sanmicheli palaces Palazzo Portalupi and Palazzo Canossa,and at last to the great fortress of Can Grande II, the Castel Vecchio with its fine bridge across the Adige. Here Can Grande II shut himself up and spent his last years in its safety.
Passing the Castel we come into the Rigaste S. Zeno by the river, and presently turning to the left just before we come to a barracks we find ourselves in the Piazza di S. Zeno before S. Zeno’s Church.
S. Zeno Maggiore is by far the most interesting church in Verona, and is one of the finest Romanesque buildings in Italy. It is said to have been founded by Pepin, son of Charlemagne, and though this might seem far fetched, much leads us to think that it was begun about the year 900. The whole church in its quietness, simplicity, and isolation is full of charm, and above anything else in Verona might seem to figure the place for us.
One of the loveliest features in this altogether lovely church is the main portal borne by columns resting on the backs of lions carved from the local red marble of Verona. It is adorned, too, with a splendid series of reliefs that seem to be twelfth-century work. Here Theodoric, the magician of Verona, is riding headlong to the devil,” and over the doors we see the twelve months figured. The doors themselves are covered with reliefs in bronze from the life of S. Zeno.
Within we find ourselves in a flat-roofed basilica of various dates, the nave as we see it being of the twelfth, the uplifted choir of the thirteenth century.
The nave contains little of interest : an octagonal font, a fourteenth-century fresco of S. Zeno, a holywater stoup contrived out of an antique capital, an old vase of porphyry near 30 feet in circumference, and a fine Giottesque Crucifix, while everywhere are remains of frescoes that have now vanished.
On the beautiful lofty choir screen are thirteenth-century figures in marble of Our Lord and the Apostles, and below ornaments in a low relief. To the right, high up at the foot of the steps to the choir, is a marble figure of S. Zeno painted.
Behind the High Altar we come to the great treasure of the church, though splendid as it is it is not so precious as the church itself a splendid altarpiece by Mantegna of Madonna enthroned with her Divine Son among many angels and S. Peter, S. Paul, S. John, S. Zeno, S. John Baptist, S. Gregory, S. Lawrence, and S. Benedict. There is nothing finer in Verona.
In the great crypt S. Zeno lies, in a humble modern tomb.
S. Zeno was a monastic church of the Order of S. Benedict, very famous through all Northern Italy. All that remains of the monastery, however, is the great tower and the cloisters, which are worth seeing.
On our way back into Verona, for here at S. Zeno we are on the verge of the city, we turn out of the Via Giuseppe into the Vicolo Lungo S. Bernardino and so come to the church of that name. We enter the church through a cloister, for the place is no longer a Franciscan convent but a boys’ school. S. Bernardino is, as we might suppose, a building of the fifteenth century, and for the most part it contains little of interest. It is worth a visit, however, if only to see the Cappella Pellegrini, built in 1557 by Sanmicheli. Another and a greater monument by the same master stands not far away, I mean the tremendous Porta Palio at the end of the Stradale di Porta Palio.
We now return to the Arena, and set out to explore that part of the city on the left bank of the Adige which is known as Veronetta. On our way, however, before crossing the Ponte delle Navi, we shall visit the Church of S. Fermo Maggiore, S. Fermo, which was built early in the fourteenth century for the Benedictines, was later given to the Franciscans. Today it is served by seculars. The façade is beautiful, and there we see the tomb of Can Grande’s physician, Fra Castoro, with its old frescoes.
Within the church has been much modernized, but it still preserves a few old frescoes of the Veronese school and even remnants of the fine work of Pisanello. Nothing within the church, however, is so fine as the church itself, which can best be seen from the Ponte delle Navi.
We cross the bridge and turning to the right come to the Palazzo Pompei, which contains the Picture Gallery. No detailed account can be given of the precious works here, for the whole Gallery is at present in confusion and without a catalogue. The custode, however, is very intelligent and helpful in every way, and will do his best for the visitor, who should insist on seeing the fine Madonna and Child with saints by Mantegna here, the works of the early Veronese masters, which are very charming, and the fine Paolo Veronese Portrait of Guarienti.
From the Pinacoteca you turn back up-stream and follow the Via Scrimiari as far as the second crossroad, there turn left and you are before the Church of S. Tommaso, where is a fine picture of S. Sebastian, S. Roch, and Job by Girolamo dai Libri.
Turning back from S. Tommaso, which of old stood on an island in the river, along the way we have come, but keeping straight on down the Via Disciplina, instead of turning into Via Scrimiari, we come presently, a little way to the left, to the Church of SS. Nazaro and Celso. This is a Gothic church, rebuilt in the latter part of the fifteenth century. Its chief interest for us is two works by Montagna a Pietà and Four Saints. Here, too, is an altarpiece by Bonsignori and some injured frescoes by his master.
We now return along the Via Muro Padri past the mysteriously lovely gardens of the Giusti Palace, which one is always foolish to pass by without a visit, and so at last come to S. Maria in Organo, a very old church, rebuilt by Sanmicheli. Here are frescoes by Francesco Morone, an altar piece and some portraits by the same master, and a Madonna and Child by Girolamo dai Libri.
S. Maria in Organo used to stand on the brink of the Adige. In those days, not so long ago, for it was only in 1895 that the canal was filled up, S. Tommaso with all its quarter was an island.
It is useless to climb up to Castel S. Pietro, for the view is not notably finer than that to be had from the Giusti terraces under the mysterious cypresses, and there is nothing else to see there. It is better and very pleasant to follow the low road by the river past the old Roman theatre, past the Ponte Pietra, the oldest bridge in Verona, and taking the Via Alessio at last to come to S. Giorgio in Braida. This is another old church rebuilt by Sanmicheli, and it is now as quiet and delicious a little picture gallery as is to be found in all the Veneto.
Here is a fine picture by Girolamo dai Libri of the Madonna enthroned between SS. Zeno and Lorenzo Giustincani with three angels at Her feet playing music for Her delight. Close by is a fine Moretto, the Madonna with the two Maries, a cool and lovely piece of painting, and best of all, perhaps, is the Paolo Veronese, the martyrdom of S. George which stands over the High Altar.
Yet it is not any picture or church, nor the great palaces about the old Piazza, nor even the Arena itself that come back into my mind when I hear the name of Verona, but those gardens of the Conti Giusti, where I have spent so many evenings under the cypresses that are as beautiful there as those in Hadrian’s garden at Tivoli. Here best of all I have found my desire, and recalled in my heart the Italy that is my fatherland. For the majestic and melancholy cypresses of those gardens have seen all the glory and tears, the victories, the defeats, the captivities of Verona from of old till now, and in their endurance they seem to demand of us just patience with all this sordid and brutal modern world, and in their solemn beauty to remind us of all that which cannot pass away. Here in the Veneto, on the eve, perhaps, of leaving Italy, it is some such reassurance we need, that we may recall to mind the great Latin people which has created and preserved Europe and given us all that is worth having in the world, and shall yet if need be,and there will be need secure it to us again, Here on the frontier let us remember it.