Egerton R. (Egerton Ryerson) Williams.

Lombard towns in Italy; or, The cities of ancient Lombardy online

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Milan by Azzo Visconti, had there carved the equally famous
shrine of St. Peter Martyr, in S. Eustorgio, many of whose
statuettes are imitated in this work. It is entirely of white
marble, about 10 feet in length, 4 in breadth and 12 in height ;
and consists of a heavy base surmounted by an equally solid
canopy, upheld by four short pillars on each of the long
sides, between which reclines the lifesize effigy of the saint, in


his episcopal robes and mitre ; round about it stand six quaint
little gowned figures, about one and one-half feet high, repre-
senting deacons of the Church, who are holding the edges of
the sheet in which the body is wound, — and four others
representing the Fathers of the Church, standing in couples
at the head and feet. Seen through the small, highly ornate
arches connecting the pillars, this makes a charming picture ;
whose embellishment is greatly added to by the numerous
statuettes grouped about the pillars, seven on each of the cor-
ner supports and four on each of the others, — saints, bishops
and martyrs, — all executed with a grace and naturalness, a
realism of drapery, and a varied effectiveness of pose and ex-
pression, truly wonderful for their period. " The figures,
which are very Pisan in style, have their surfaces highly pol-
ished, the borders of their robes carefully elaborated, and the
pupils of their eyes painted black, according to a common
custom of the time." 7

All around the base stand larger figures, — the twelve
Apostles, in trefoil gothic niches, six per side, surrounded by
a lavish wealth of foliated designs covering every inch of
surface, and some fourteen female virtues and martyrs, placed
at the ends and upon pilasters between the pairs of Apostles.
The canopy is still more elaborately decorated: each side
bears six separate tableaux in high relief, the upper three be-
ing located in the equilateral triangles of the crocketed gables,
with more statuettes posed between them and at the angles;
while each end carries three scenes similarly disposed, — two
below and one above. The lower series represent the chief
events of the life of the saint, including the institution of his
order, the translation of his body from Africa, and its trans-
ference to this church. The upper series display, in a more
confined manner, a number of his reported miracles. In

7 Perkins' " Italian Sculptors."


none of the tableaux are the figures so natural or graceful
as are the statuettes, but they are, considering their epoch,
remarkably dramatic and full of force and purpose. Most
striking and beautiful of all, perhaps, is the effect of the
monument as a whole, with its fine proportions, harmonious
lines, and extraordinary richness of ornamentation.

As I gazed upon it, my thoughts roved over the remark-
able history of the saintly dust reposing within it, both before
and after death. It once formed that Father of the Church
of whom Tullock well said, that " no single name has ever
made such an impression upon Christian thought;" for
when, " in the death-agonies of the Western Empire, the
ashes of paganism showed flickering life, Augustine's hand
it was which quenched the false fire finally. — Luther and
Calvin drew largely upon his writing; Jansenius preached
Augustinianism pur et simple; and if we take away from the
popular theology of the protestant sects what it has gathered
from Augustine's teaching, little will remain. — Augustine
occupies a unique position amongst the great ecclesiastics.
He is at once the most human and the most spiritual of
them all ; the most daring of offenders, the most heart-stricken
of penitents." 8

Who does not know his life of startling contrasts: its
youth of wildest dissipation, which gave such sorrow to S.
Monica, his mother, and was so frankly set forth in his
" Confessions " ; his conversion and baptism by St. Ambrose
at Milan ; his appointment to the bishopric of Hippo, in
Africa, followed by so many years of glorious deeds for the
faith, and so many invaluable treatises upon its tenets. But
the history of his remains was even more adventurous: first
translated to the church of S. Saturnino at Cagliari, Sar-
dinia, 60 years after his death, on account of the Vandal

8 W. G. Waters' " Five Italian Shrines."


conquest of N. Africa; worshipped there for two centuries
by devout pilgrims from every land; again compelled to
flight by an infidel invasion, this time of the Saracens, and
transferred by King Luitprand of the Lombards to Pavia,
in 710; deposited then in the earlier church of the Bene-
dictines — subsequently of the Eremetani — upon this same
spot, where they were placed in a subterranean vault closed
with masonry, whose location became eventually forgotten ;
vainly searched for in the 14th century, when the Eremetani
monks had erected this splendid memorial to contain them,
— after exhausting their own wealth upon it, and inducing
the magnificent Gian Galeazzo to complete it, by donations
and by a legacy in his will; the relics finally came to the
light of modern day in 1695, "when, in digging in the
sacristy of S. Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, the workmen came upon
a marble tomb, which bore the inscription ' Augustinus,' and
contained a silver casket in which were found bones and
ashes." 9

They were thus united with the shrine built to hold them ;
but in a few years commenced a further wandering by going
to the Duomo of that time. Returned to S. Pietro, then
transferred to the church of the Jesu, and again to the
Cathedral about 1800, when the Eremetani were suppressed
and S. Pietro dismantled, — they finally came to rest here
in 1902, upon the originally destined spot, the church having
been restored for their reception. Behind the tomb I saw, set
in the floor, a piece of the original Roman mosaic pavement
that floored the cathedral of the saint at Hippo. King
Luitprand himself is buried in this church, through his ex-
pressed desire to lie beside the remains of the great Boethius,
whose memory he adored ; 10 but the place of the joint

9 W. G. Waters' " Five Italian Shrines."

10 " II avait voulu par son testament etre enterre aux pieds di


sepulchre is unmarked, and forgotten, — doubtless due to the
church's dismantling in 1800. That Boethius was laid to
rest here is proved by the lines of Dante, in " Paradiso,
canto X, 124-129, — " Lo corpo ond'ella fu cacciata giace —
Giuso in Cieldauro," In the large adjacent monastery, now
used as a barrack, at an angle of one of the cloisters, rest the
remains of the Dukes of Suffolk and Lorraine, who were
slain in the great battle of 1525.

On coming out, I inspected with interest, from a suitable
view-point, the exterior of the church's Lombard cupola,
which is octagonal and completely arcaded, in that roman-
esque style which was the prototype of the Lombard-renais-
sance; also the picturesque exterior of the choir, with its
typical Lombard pilasters and colonnades ; — both of these
features remaining from the edifice of the 1 2th century'.
Then returning to the A Ilea, and crossing it, I struck off
down a broad street called the Piazza Petrarca, parallel
with the Corso; whifh after some 300 yards brought me to
the huge, brick structure of S. Maria del Carmine, two
blocks west of the University. This was an imposing gothic
building of the late trecento, which even the critical Street
admitted to be " a masterpiece of terracotta and brick archi-
tecture, — more akin to our own pointed work than any
other church " u he had seen in Italy. The facade, of Lom-
bard pyramidal shape, was adorned by three pointed door-

Boece, afin, disait-il, qu'en cessant de vivre, il ne parut point cesser
de lui raanquer son respect." — Valery. His fine tomb, which Valery
described, has entirely disappeared during the changes of the ages.
— It is to this greatest of the Lombard monarchs that the name of
the church is due: for, after restoring the then edifice from basement
to roof, he caused the latter to be gorgeously embellished with a
" golden frieze."

11 Street's " Brick and Marble Architecture in the Middle Ages,"
Chap. X.


ways, — the central containing a fair cotta relief of the
Annunciation, — ■ a large and very handsome rose window,
enriched by cotta mouldings and other decorations, two
single- and four double-arched gothic windows in charming
cotta frames, and a cornice of the same material topped by
pinnacles. The lofty sides and choir were also impressively
pierced by excellent, large, recessed windows; and upon the
south side rose the enormous campanile, to a fine belfry of
triple-pointed arches, and a spire capped with a columned
lantern. The colour effect of these unusually red bricks and
the glistening terracotta, joined with the massive dignity of
the edifice and the grace of its adornments, renders it thor-
oughly delightful.

Its interior, which I visited upon a later day, proved
equally enchanting, — so much so, in fact, that it lingers in
my memory as one of the most interesting gothic churches of
the plain. Its individuality was very pronounced. The
pointed groined nave of spacious dimensions, the numerous
heavy, gothic piers, connected by narrow, pointed arches, the
considerably lower aisles, similarly vaulted and flanked by
a succession of deep, narrow chapels, the longer transepts,
and square choir, of equal height and breadth with the nave, —
were all constructed of the same red brick, but in lines and
masses so effective that for once at least they were fully as
impressive as any stone. This effect was heightened by the
omnipresent gloom which shrouded the ponderous pillars,
deepened to obscurity the chapels, and was traversed by
glints of oriental hues from the smoky, stained windows.
No dome lent its lightening influence. And the prevailing
sense of vast, unaltering age was complemented by the an-
cient pavement of worn, red tiles. The Italian-gothic plan,
which reminded me strongly of S. Anastasia at Verona, was
filled out by four more narrow, deep chapels, in the transept,


— two upon each side of the choir ; and there were various
interesting appurtenances of that style, including a carved
wooden puipit upon the right-hand middle pier, a gothic
wooden ancona, highly carved and regilded, in the last chapel
of that side, and a curious but elegant baptismal canopy,
richly sculptured in terracotta with many reliefs and statu-
ettes, in the first chapel upon the left. Only two renaissance
works worthy of notice were to be seen : an early cinquecento
painting of the Madonna between two saints, effectively
posed and coloured, placed over a little altar against the
entrance-wall, and illumined by encircling candles; and a
Swooning of the Madonna by the Leonardesque school, with
a number of enchanting artgels, in the fourth chapel on the
left. 12

Upon the eastern side of Piazza Petrarca, and a few paces
farther north, stands the plain Palazzo Malaspina, a digni-
fied, fair-sized edifice whose restorations have prevented any
show of its great age; but as long ago as the 14th century
it was the seat of the noble family of that name, and only
in recent times has left their possession, to become the
quarters of the city's artistic collections, — Pavia's Museo
Civico. In the latter part of the said century, the then
Marchese Malaspina had an estimable factor named Fran-
cesco da Brossano, who occupied a dwelling adjacent to the
palace upon the east. There he lived with his wife, the
daughter of Petrarch; and Petrarch himself often stayed
with them for long visits, preferring the company of his
dearly beloved child, and that of his little grandson, to the
royal luxury of the Castello. The house has now disap-
peared; but, on traversing a lane called Vicolo S. Zeno to

12 In this church lies buried one of humanity's great benefactors, —
the monk Bernardino da Feltre, who originated here at Pavia in 1493
the institution of the Monte di Pietd.


the back part of the palace, I came to a little memorial
indicating its site, — a bust of Petrarch, with a long inscrip-
tion, upon the outer wall of a rear courtyard. The in-
scription included the simple but touching Latin epitaph
which was composed by the sorrowing poet when his adored
grandson died.

Upon the other side of the gateway in this wall, I saw
another bust and epigraph, to the martyred Boethius; for
this was the spot, according to the unchanging tradition,
upon which stood his prison-tower. The subscription, by the
Abbe Morcelli, reminded me that this was holy ground, which
had witnessed such undeserved sufferings, and seen them pour
forth the pious wisdom of the " De Consolatione Philoso-

Besides the Museo, which, according to my wont, I left
for inspection at the end of my visit, there was one more
place of interest in this quarter of the city, — the northwestern
ramparts, reached at the end of the Allea di Piazza Castello.
I found a pleasure in pacing their lofty promenade toward
sunset, under the shade of their arching foliage, amid a silence
broken only by an occasional passer-by ; while the golden
radiance of the western sky illumined the far-spread plain
with a sheen of glory which seemed to revivify its dramatic
scenes of the tremendous past, throwing a glistening mantle
over the railroad yards and factories of the modern suburb,
from which resounded the flashing arms of the countless hosts
of bygone assailants, — from Alboin with his Lombards to
Francis with his doomed array. 13

One day I devoted to the remaining objects of interest

13 These ponderous bastions remain from the enceinture of 1547,
built by Fr. Gonzales as governor for Charles V. — In the preceding
centuries, of Pavia as a stronghold, there were three complete cir-
cuits of walls, one within another.


in the northeastern quarter. Following the narrow street
running eastward from the Corso along the northern side of
the University, it terminated after four blocks in a small
piazza fronted by the large church of the Franciscans, looking
westward. Its long, low, dark interior, with huge stuccoed
columns, was entirely renovated and of no special merit;
but the early fagade was most exceptional, its body being
of stucco painted a tessellated red and white design, with
red brick buttresses tipped by quaint gothic pinnacles; the
four little second-story windows, grouped together in the
centre, were recessed with red and white mouldings; and
the single large upper window was a beautiful gothic work,
with three pointed arches divided by marble mullions, and
enclosed in a frame of delicately wrought terracotta. This
front was a production of the 13th century, recently restored
without variation.

One block behind it there opened a square almost as ex-
tensive as the Piazza Grande, holding in its centre a heroic
bronze statue of Pope Pius V, bearded, and draped in a
Berniniesque manner. His hand is extended in blessing to-
ward a large palace upon his right, the Collegio Ghislieri,
which he founded in 1569. This seminarial attachment of
the University, looking northward from the square's south-
eastern angle, has a plain stuccoed fagade, with a stately
renaissance portal framed by columns. Two blocks directly
south of San Francesco I found the curious little church of
S. Maria di Canepanova, designed by Bramante. Its facade,
with the master's usual indifference, consisted only of rough
brickwork ; but the interior was in his customary classic form
of a domed octagon, adorned by an arcaded gallery in the
second story, consisting of double arches on each side,
separated by corinthian half-columns. The dome was
prettily proportioned and designed, and recently painted in


a bluish grey ground with regular devices. Upon the
right and left were shallow recesses devoted to altars; the
choir and entrance occupied deeper archways; and each
corner was adorned with a couple of mediocre paintings.
The building's grace and smallness combined to give it a sort
of cameo-like charm. Here I was amused and repelled by an
assistant sacristan to whom the palm for idiocy must cer-
tainly be awarded. His unremitting attentions, composed
of chucklings, snortings, gurglings, shakings, and a meaning-
less jargon of his own, prevented any proper appreciation of
the building.

A block to the east of this rises the large Palazzo Munic-
ipale, on the northern side of the piazza terminating Via
Mazzini. When I have said, after due reflection, that it is
the most extremely rococo structure I ever saw, I can give
no stronger idea of its horrible barbarities of mass and detail.
It is of course of stucco, painted in imitation of stone around
the doorways and windows, with two real stone columns
framing each portal ; the window-cornices and balconies are
masses of flying, twisted, involved lines, no line nor curve
being held for a foot's distance. It is ugly to the point of
interest. But it is spacious, and affords the admiring Pavesi
plenty of room for their city government. On one side the
piazza was now being enlarged by the demolishing of some
very old building, to make space for lawns and flowerbeds. —
Several blocks to the northeast here, against the city wall on
this side, lie the botanical gardens attached to the University,
already mentioned. And several blocks to the south, seen
over the housetops from the elevated ground on which the
Municipio is perched, rise the two or three surviving mediae-
val house-towers, of the celebrated hundred which gave their
name formerly to the town. Their dark, quadrangular,
brick walls soar with hardly an opening far into the blue sky,


to broken, crumbling summits, deprived of the battlements
from which the mediaevals waged their fratricidal city strife. 1 *

Their attached dwellings, remnants of noble houses, — as
I found later on walking to their feet, — are likewise crum-
bling, dingy, and more or less abandoned. Many of these
dusky side-streets are lined throughout by ancient buildings
of this character, still, as in Lady Morgan's time, " sad,
desolate and silent; some terminate in piazzas, opening before
vast and cumbrous palaces, with windows half-sashed, doors
hanging from their hinges, balconies mouldering over beauti-
ful but fallen porticoes, and the grass shooting up everywhere
between the pavements."

In this same southeastern quarter there remained to be in-
spected that famous edifice, at once the most ancient and most
perfect of all Lombard buildings, which, according to Lord
Lindsay, " existed as a sanctuary as early as 66 1, — the church
of S. Michele Maggiore, — when Unulfus took sanctuary
in it to escape the vengeance of King Grimoaldus " ; 15
though the present structure is of the ioth century. It is
located a couple of blocks east of the main thoroughfare, and
one block south of Corso Garibaldi, facing westward upon a
small piazza of the same name. On starting out one morn-
ing to visit it, however, I first stopped for a few minutes to
examine the so-called Mercato Coperto, or covered market,
which adjoins the hotel upon the south, extending through
from Corso Vittorio Emanuele to the sequestered little Piazza
del Popolo. It was a typically handsome, modern, Italian
arcade, glass-roofed, with a central, domed rotunda of four
stories; its stucco fagade was in quiet renaissance lines, its

14 From noo to 1300 was the chief era of tower-building, — which
was done really more for show than for use; they reached, says Bre-
ventano, to the number of 160.

15 Lord Lindsay's " Christian Art," Vol. I.


hall decorated with many fine granite columns, upon the walls
and about the doorways ; and the stately rotunda was beauti-
fied by an upper gallery, surmounted by a circle of three-
quarter columns. Here the central post-office was located.
Occupying the little rear piazza, and framed in the long
vista of the arcade, I found Pavia's monument to the heroic

This was a splendid masterpiece of modern Italian sculp-
ture (1900), and the artist, Enrico Cassi, had fully taken
advantage of his inspiring subject, to produce a group teeming
with pathos and lofty patriotism. Upon a heavy granite
pedestal, and before an obelisk of the same stone rising from
its back, stood that wonderful woman, Adelaide, daughter of
Count and Minister Benedetto Bono, and mother of the
Cairoli, bestowing a battleflag upon her five departing sons,
— four of them leaving her forever, to give their lives for
Italy. The lifesize bronze figures were thrilling in their
realism of form and garb, and in the patriotic self-devotion
that radiated from every line of the eager faces and every
gesture of the youthful limbs. In deeper dramatic contrast
stood the bereaved widow, in her severe mourning dress, as
straight as any warrior, the fine eyes of her noble countenance
plainly glowing with fervour and pride, while yet the lines
of the cheeks betrayed the heart-rending emotions of the for-
saken mother. Well indeed could she say, — " More I give
to my country than my own heart's blood : I give that of my
children ! " And well say the Italians, that she died four
times, to free her fatherland. Another monument records
her bravery and sacrifice at Groppello, where she resided.
And all travellers must remember that touching memorial
in the Pincian gardens of Rome, showing two young soldiers
making their last stand, one of them stretched upon the
ground; those were two of the brothers, who perished in


Garibaldi's attacks upon the Eternal City. Of the others,
one fell at Varese, and the fourth in Sicily, during that
memorable expedition, which Adelaide had assisted in send-
ing off from Genoa. The fifth, Benedetto, though wounded
at Catalafimi in the ranks of the Thousand, lived to serve
United Italy as one of her greatest statesmen, and to save
King Humbert's life, in '78, when attacked by Passanante. —
Now Adelaide and her five sons sleep together, in a chapel
that has been made a national monument.

" In the name of Italy,
Meantime her patriot dead have benison.
They only have done well ; and what they did,
Being perfect, it shall triumph.
Let them slumber." 16

Taking my way out the Corso Garibaldi, whose straight-
ness and larger width make it comparatively imposing, and
turning to the right, I soon arrived before the 10th century
temple of the Lombards, which at once held me in delighted
wonder. It was far from beautiful, in its stern dark walls
and irregular lines, whose evenly fitted marble blocks had
been turned by the ages to the colour of clay; but the lofty
massiveness of the grim fagade, lightened hardly at all by the
little windows, impressed me with a sense of power and
majesty; to which were added strange feelings of savage
wildness and ferocity, by the extensive bands of weird and
uncouth carvings that stretched from angle to angle, in
contrast to the skilfulness of the masonry, which the builders
had learned from the Roman structures. It was indeed
a thesaurus of the artistic accomplishments, — an exponent
of the semicivilised traits and practices, — of that strange race
of vanished conquerors.

16 Mrs. Browning's " Casa Guidi Windows."



The pyramidal front was taller than usual at the shoul-
ders, and its broad gable was remarkably flat ; beneath it ran
an arcaded sloping cornice of extraordinary dimensions, deeply
recessed in the heavy wall, with its round arches supported by
slender marble shafts, whose crude capitals were surmounted
by distorted beasts, and whose bases rested upon successive
steps. Four imitation-buttresses (two of them at the build-
ing's corners) divided the facade into three unequal com-
partments, the central being" wider; they were formed like
clustered columns, of even size to the top; or rather, each
was composed of a half-column flanked by three receding
mouldings on each side, alternately round and square; the
two middle buttresses being cut to a third and a half their
height with vertical, spiral and circular grooves, while the
outer ones seemed still more unfinished, with unevenly spaced
patches of zigzags. A fine rounded portal opened in each
of these compartments, the middle one considerably taller;
each was recessed five-fold, and sculptured all over its mould-

Online LibraryEgerton R. (Egerton Ryerson) WilliamsLombard towns in Italy; or, The cities of ancient Lombardy → online text (page 21 of 47)