John Evelyn.

Diary and correspondence, To which is subjoined the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas, and between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryJohn EvelynDiary and correspondence, To which is subjoined the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas, and between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 46)
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it gave to the Holy History, I caused my painter, Carlo, to
copy it exactly. The rest of the work of the Arch is of the
noblest, best understood composita ; and the inscription is
this, in capital letters :

S. P. Q. R.

Santa Maria Nova is on the place where they told us
Simon Magus fell out of the air at St. Peter's prayer, and
burst himself to pieces on a flint. Near this is a marble
monument, erected by the people of Rome in memory of
the Pope's return from Avignon.

Being now passed the ruins of Meta-Sudante (which
stood before the Colosseum, so called, because there once
stood here the statue of Commodus provided to refresh
the gladiators), we enter the mighty ruins of the Vespasian

i 2


Amphitheatre, begun by Vespasian, and finished by that
excellent prince, Titus. It is 830 Roman palms in length,.
(i. e. 130 paces), 90 in breadth at the area, with caves for
the wild beasts which used to be baited by men instead of
dogs ; the whole oval periphery 2888^ palms, and capable
of containing 87,000 spectators with ease and all accom-
modation: the three rows of circles are yet entire; the
first was for the senators, the middle for the nobility, the
third for the people. At the dedication of this place were
5000 wild beasts slain in three months during which the
feast lasted, to the expense of ten millions of gold. It
was built of Tiburtine stone, a vast height, with the five
orders of architecture, by 30,000 captive Jews. It is
without, of a perfect circle, and was once adorned thick
with statues, and remained entire, till of late that some of
the stones were carried away to repair the city -walls and
build the Farnesian Palace. That which still appears
most admirable is, the contrivance of the porticos, vaults,
and stairs, with the excessive altitude, which well deserves
this distich of the poet :

Omnis Caesareo cedat labor Amphitheatre ;
Unum pro cunctis fama loquatur opus.

Near it is a small chapel called Santa Maria della Pieta
nel Colisseo, which is erected on the steps, or stages, very
lofty at one of its sides, or ranges, within, and where there
lives only a melancholy hermit. I ascended to the very
top of it with wonderful admiration.

The Arch of Constantine the Great is close by the Meta-
Sudante, before mentioned, at the beginning of the Via
Appia, on one side Monte Celio, and is perfectly entire,
erected by the people in memory of his victory over
Maxentius, at the Pons Milvius, now Ponte Mole. In the
front is this inscription :








Hence, we went to St. Gregorio, in Monte Celio, where

J644.] JOHN EVELYN. 117

are many privileged altars, and there they showed us an
arm of that saint, and other relics. Before this church
stands a very noble portico.

15th. Was very wet, and I stirred not out, and the 16th
I went to visit Father John, Provincial of the Benedictines.

17th. I walked to Villa Borghese, a house and ample
garden on Mons Pincius, yet somewhat without the city-
walls, circumscribed by another wall full of small turrets
and banqueting-houses ; which makes it appear at a
distance like a little town. Within it is an elysium of
delight, having in the centre of it a noble palace ; but the
entrance of the garden presents us with a very glorious
fabric, or rather door-case, adorned with divers excellent
marble statues. This garden abounded with all sorts of
delicious fruit and exotic simples, fountains of sundry
inventions, groves, and small rivulets. There is also ad-
joining to it a vivarium for ostriches, peacocks, swans,
cranes, &c. and divers strange beasts, deer, and hares.
The grotto is* very rare, and represents, among other
devices, artificial rain, and sundry shapes of vessels, flowers,
&c. ; which is effected by changing the heads of the foun-
tains. The groves are of cypress, laurel, pine, myrtle, and
olive. The four sphinxes are very antique, and worthy
observation. To this is a volary, full of curious birds.
The house is square with turrets, from which the prospect is
excellent towards Rome, and the environing hills, covered
as they now are with snow, which indeed commonly con-
tinues even a great part of the summer, affording sweet
refreshment. Bound the house is a baluster of white
marble, with frequent jettos of water, and adorned with
a multitude of statues. The walls of the house are covered
with antique incrustations of history, as that of Curtius,
the Rape of Europa, Leda, &c. The cornices above con-
sist of fruitages and festoons, between which are niches
furnished with statues, which order is observed to the very
roof. In the lodge, at the entry, are divers good statues
of Consuls, &c., with two pieces of field-artillery upon
carriages, (a mode much practised in Italy before the great
men's houses) which they look on as a piece of state more
than defence. In the first hall within, are the twelve
Roman Emperors, of excellent marble; betwixt them
stand porphyry columns, and other precious stones of


vast height and magnitude, with urns of oriental alabaster.
Tables of pietra-commessa : and here is that renowned
Diana which Pompey worshipped, of eastern marble ; the
most incomparable Seneca of touch, bleeding in an huge
vase of porphyry, resembling the drops of his blood ; the
so famous Gladiator, and the Hermaphrodite upon a quilt
of stone. The new piece of Daphne, and David, of Cava-
liero Bernini, is observable for the pure whiteness of the
stone, and the art of the statuary plainly stupendous.
There is a multitude of rare pictures of infinite value, by
the best masters; huge tables of porphyry, and two ex-
quisitely wrought vases of the same. In another chamber,
are divers sorts of instruments of music : amongst other
toys that of a satyr, which so artificially expressed a human
voice, with the motion of eyes and head, that it might
easily affright one who was not prepared for that most ex-
travagant sight. They showed us also a chair that catches
fast any who sits down in it, so as not to be able to stir
out, by certain springs concealed in the arms and back
thereof, which at sitting down surprises a man on the
sudden, locking him in by the arms and thighs, after a
true treacherous Italian guise. The perspective is also
considerable, composed by the position of looking-glasses,,
which render a strange multiplication of things resembling
divers most richly furnished rooms. Here stands a rare-
clock of German work; in a word, nothing but what is
magnificent is to be seen in this Paradise.

The next day, I went to the Vatican, where, in the
morning, I saw the ceremony of Pamfilio, the Pope's
nephew, receiving a Cardinal's hat ; this was the first time
I had seen his Holiness in pontificalibus. After the Car-
dinals and Princes had met in the consistory, the ceremony
was in the Pope's chapel, where he was at the altar invested
with most pompous rites.

19th. I visited St. Peter's, that most stupendous and
incomparable Basilica, far surpassing any now extant in
the world, and perhaps, Solomon's Temple excepted, any
that was ever built. The largeness of the piazza before-
the portico is worth observing, because it affords a noble
prospect of the church, not crowded up as for the most
part is the case in other places where great churches are
erected. In this is a fountain, out of which gushes a river

1644.] JOHN EVELYN. 119

rather than a stream which, ascending a good height,
breaks upon a round emboss of marble into millions of
pearls that fall into the subjacent basins with great noise ;
I esteem this one of the goodliest fountains I ever saw.

Next is the obelisk transported out of Egypt, and dedi-
cated by Octavius Augustus to Julius Caesar, whose ashes
it formerly bore on the summit; but, being since over-
turned by the barbarians, was re-erected with vast cost
and a most stupendous invention by Domenico Fontana,
architect to Sextus V. The obelisk consists of one entire
square stone without hieroglyphics, in height seventy-two
feet, but comprehending the base and all it is 108 feet
high, and rests on four Lions of gilded copper, so as you
may see through the base of the obelisk and plinth of the

Upon two faces of the obelisk is engraven :





It now bears on the top a cross in which it is said that
Sextus V. inclosed some of the holy wood ; and under it is
to be read by good eyes :






On the four faces of the base below :
























A little lower :


It is reported to have taken a year in erecting, to have
cost 37,975 crowns, the labour of 907 men, and 75 horses;
this being the first of the four Egyptian obelisks set up at
Rome, and one of the forty-two brought to the city out of
Egypt, set up in several places, but thrown down by the
Goths, Barbarians, and earthquakes, t Some coaches stood
before the steps of the ascent, whereof one, belonging to
Cardinal Medici, had all the metal work of massy silver,
viz. the bow behind and other places. The coaches at
Rome, as well as covered waggons also much in use, are
generally the richest and largest I ever saw. Before the
facciata of the church is an ample pavement. The church
was first begun by St. Anacletus, when rather a chapel, on
a foundation, as they give out, of Constantine the Great,
who, in honour of the Apostles, carried twelve baskets full
of sand to the work. After him, Julius II. took it in
hand, to which all his successors have contributed more
or less.

The front is supposed to be the largest and best-studied
piece of architecture in the world ; to this we went up by
four steps of marble. The first entrance is supported by
huge pilasters ; the volto within is the richest possible, and
overlaid with gold. Between the five large anti-ports are

* In 1589, this eminent architect published a folio volume, with engravings,
descriptive of the manner of removing and re-erecting this famous monument
of antiquity, entitled u Del modo tenuto nel trasportare 1'Obelisco Vaticano ;"
with his portrait in the title-page, holding a model of this column.

t See Platina in Vita Pontiff, p. 315.

1C44.] JOHN EVELYN. 121

columns of enormous height and compass, with as many
gates of brass, the work and sculpture of Pollaivola, the
Florentine, full of cast figures and histories in a deep
relievo. Over this runs a terrace of like amplitude and
ornament, where the Pope, at solemn times, bestows his
Benediction on the vulgar. On each side of this portico,
are two campaniles, or towers, whereof there was but one
perfected, of admirable art. On the top of all, runs a
balustrade which edges it quite round, and upon this at
equal distances are Christ and the [twelve Disciples, of
gigantic size and stature, yet below showing no greater
than the life. Entering the church, admirable is the
breadth of the volto, or roof, which is all carved with
foliage and roses overlaid with gold in nature of a deep
basso-relievo, a I' antique. The nave, or body, is in form of
a cross, whereof the foot-part is the longest ; and, at the
internodium of the transept, rises the cupola, which being
all of stone and of prodigious height is more in compass
than that of the Pantheon (which was the largest amongst
the old Romans, and is yet entire) or any other known.
The inside, or concave, is covered with most exquisite
Mosaic, representing the Celestial Hierarchy, by Giuseppe
d'Arpino, full of stars of gold; the convex, or outside,
exposed to the air, is covered with lead, with great ribs of
metal double gilt (as are also the ten other lesser cupolas,
for no fewer adorn this glorious structure), which gives a
great and admirable splendour in all parts of the city.
On the summit of this is fixed a brazen globe gilt, capable
of receiving thirty-five persons. This I entered, and en-
graved my name amongst other travellers. Lastly, is the
cross, the access to which is between the leaden covering
and the stone convex, or arch- work ; a most truly astonish-
ing piece of art ! On the battlements of the church, also
all overlaid with lead and marble, you would imagine
yourself in a town, so many are the cupolas, pinnacles,
towers, juttings, and not a few houses inhabited by men
who dwell there, and have enough to do to look after the
vast reparations which continually employ them.

Having seen this, we descended into the body of the
church, full of collateral chapels and large oratories, most
of them exceeding the size of ordinary churches ; but the
principal are four incrusted with most precious marbles


and stones of various colours, adorned with an infinity of
statues, pictures, stately altars, and innumerable relics.
The altar-piece of St. Michael being of Mosaic, I could
not pass without particular note, as one of the best of that
kind. The chapel of Gregory XIII., where he is buried,
is most splendid. Under the cupola, and in the centre of
the church, stands the high altar, consecrated first by
Clement VIII., adorned by Paul V., and lately covered
by Pope Urban VIII. ; with that stupendous canopy of
Corinthian brass, which heretofore was brought from the
Pantheon; it consists of four wreathed columns, partly
channelled and encircled with vines, on which hang little
puti, birds and bees (the arms of the Barberini), sustaining
a baldacchina, of the same metal. The four columns weigh
an hundred and ten thousand pounds, all over richly gilt ;
this, with the pedestals, crown, and statues about it, form
a thing of that art, vastness, and magnificence, as is beyond
all that man's industry has produced of the kind ; it is the
work of Bernini, a Florentine sculptor, architect, painter,
and poet, who, a little before my coming to the city, gave
a public opera (for so they call shows of that kind), wherein
he painted the scenes, cut the statues, invented the engines,
composed the music, writ the comedy, and built the
theatre. Opposite to either of these pillars, under those
niches which with their columns support the weighty
cupola, are placed four exquisite statues of Parian marble,
to which are four altars ; that of St. Veronica, made by
Fra. Mochi, has over it the reliquary, where they showed
us the miraculous Sudarium indued with the picture of
our Saviour's face, with this inscription : " Salvatoris
imaginem Veronicas Sudario exceptam ut loci majestas
decenter custodiret, Urbanus VIII. Pont. Max. Marmo-
reum signum et Altare addidit, Conditorium extruxit et

Right against this is that of Longinus, of a Colossean
magnitude, also by Bernini, and over him the conservatory
of the iron lance inserted in a most precious crystal, with
this epigraph : " Longini Lanceam quam Innocentius VIII.
a Bajazete Turcarum Tyranno accepit, Urbanus VIII.
statu& apposit^, et Sacello substructo, in exornatum Con-
ditorium transtulit."

The third chapel has over the altar the statue of our

1644.] JOHN EVELYN. 123

countrywoman, St. Helena, the mother of Constantino the
Great; the work of Boggi, an excellent sculptor; and
here is preserved a great piece of the pretended wood of
the holy cross, which she 'is said to have first detected
miraculously in the Holy Land. It was placed here by
the late Pope with this inscription : " Partem Crucis quam
Helena Imperatrix e Calvario in Urbem adduxit, Urbanus
VIII. Pont. Max. e Sissoriana Basilica desumptam, addi-
tis ard et statua, hie in Vaticano collocavit."

The fourth hath over the altar, and opposite to that
of St. Veronica, the statue of St. Andrew, the work of
Fiamingo, admirable above all the other; above is pre-
served the head of that Apostle, richly enchased. It is
said that this excellent sculptor died mad to see his statue
placed in a disadvantageous light by Bernini, the chief
architect, who found himself outdone by this artist. The
inscription over it is this :

St. Andres caput quod Pius II. ex Achaia in Vaticanum asportan-
dum curavit, Urbanus VIII. novis hie ornamentis decoratum sacrisque
statuae ac Sacelli honoribus coli voluit.

The Relics showed and kept in this church are without
number, as are also the precious vessels of gold, silver, and
gems, with the vests and services to be seen in the Sacristy,
which they showed us. Under the high altar is an ample
grot inlaid with pietra-commessa, wherein half of the bodies
of St. Peter and St. Paul are preserved; before hang
divers great lamps of the richest plate, burning continually.
About this and contiguous to the altar, runs a balustrade,
in form of a theatre, of black marble. Towards the left,
as you go out of the church by the portico, a little beneath
the high altar, is an old brass statue of St. Peter sitting,
under the soles of whose feet many devout persons rub
their heads, and touch their chaplets. This was formerly
cast from a statue of Jupiter Capitolinus. In another
place, stands a column grated about with iron, whereon
they report that our Blessed Saviour was often wont to
lean as he preached in the Temple. In the work of the
reliquary under the cupola there are eight wreathed
columns brought from the Temple of Solomon. In
another chapel, they showed us the chair of St. Peter, or,
as they name it, the Apostolical Throne. But amongst


all the chapels the one most glorious has for an altar-piece
a Madonna bearing a dead Christ on her knees, in white
marble, the work of Michael Angelo. At the upper end of
the Cathedral, are several stately monuments, especially
that of Urban VIII. Bound the cupola, and in many
other places in the church, are confession-seats for all lan-
gua'ges, Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Italian, French,
English, Irish, Welsh, Sclavonian, Dutch, &c., as it is
written on their friezes in golden capitals, and there are
still at confessions some of all nations. Towards the
lower end of the church, and on the side of a vast pillar
sustaining a weighty roof, is the depositum and statue of
the Countess Matilda, a rare piece, with basso-relievos
about it of white marble, the work of Bernini. Here are
also those of Sextus IV. and Paulus III., &c. Amongst
the exquisite pieces in this sumptuous fabric is that of the
ship with St. Peter held up from sinking by our Saviour ;
the emblems about it are the Mosaic of the famous Giotto,
who restored and made it perfect after it had been defaced
by the Barbarians. Nor is the pavement under the cupola
to be passed over without observation, which with the rest
of the body and walls of the whole church, are all inlaid
with the richest of pietra-commessa, in the most splendid
colours of polished marbles, agates, serpentine, porphyry,
calcedon, &c., wholly incrusted to the very roof. Coming
out by the portico at which we entered, we were showed
the Porta Santa, never opened but at the year of jubilee.
This glorious foundation hath belonging to it thirty
canons, thirty-six beneficiates, twenty-eight clerks bene-
ficed, with innumerable chaplains, &c., a Cardinal being
always arch-priest ; the present Cardinal was Francisco
Barberini, who also styled himself Protector of the English,
to whom he was indeed very courteous.

20th. I went to visit that ancient See and Cathedral
of St. John di Laterano, and the holy places there-
about. This is a church of extraordinary devotion, though,
for outward form, not comparable to St. Peter's, being
of Gothic ordonnance. Before we went into the cathe-
dral, the Baptistery of St. John Baptist presented itself,
being formerly part of the Great Constantino's Palace,
and, as it is said, his chamber where by St. Silvester
he was made a Christian. It is of an octagonal shape,

1644.J JOHN EVELYN. 125

having before the entrance eight fairpillars of rich porphyry,
each of one entire piece, their capitals of divers orders
supporting lesser columns of white marble, and these sup-
porting a noble cupola, the moulding whereof is excellently
wrought. In the chapel which they affirm to have been
the lodging place of this Emperor, all women are prohi-
bited from entering, for the malice of Herodias who
caused him to lose his head. Here are deposited several
sacred relics of St. James, Mary Magdalen, St. Matthew,
&c., and two goodly pictures. Another chapel, or oratory
near it, is called St. John the Evangelist, well adorned
with marbles and tables, especially those of Cavaliere
Giuseppe, and of Tempesta, in fresco. We went hence
into another called St. Venantius, in which is a tribunal
all of Mosaic in figures of Popes. Here is also an altar
of the Madonna, much visited, and divers Sclavonish
saints, companions of Pope John IV. The portico of the
church is built of materials brought from Pontius Pilate's
house in Jerusalem.

The next sight which attracted our attention, was a
wonderful concourse of people at their devotions before a
place called Scala Sancta, to which is built a noble front.
Entering the portico, we saw those large marble stairs,
twenty-eight in number, which are never ascended but on
the knees, some lip-devotion being used on every step ; on
which you may perceive divers red specks of blood under a
grate, which they affirm to have been drops of our Blessed
Saviour, at the time he was so barbarously misused by
Herod's soldiers ; for these stairs are reported to have been
translated hither from his Palace in Jerusalem. At the
top of them is a chapel, whereat they enter (but we could
not be permitted) by gates of marble, being the same our
Saviour passed when he went out of Herod's house. This
they name the Sanctum Sanctorum, and over it we read this
epigraph :

Non est in toto sanctior orbe locus.

Here, through a grate, we saw that picture of Christ
painted (as they say) by the hand of St. Luke, to the life.
Descending again, we saw before the church the obelisk,
which is indeed most worthy of admiration. It formerly
lay in the Circo Maximo, and was erected here by Sextus V.,
in 1587, being 112 feet in height without the base or


pedestal ; at the foot nine and a half one way and eight
the other. This pillar was first brought from Thebes at
the utmost confines of Egypt, to Alexandria, from thence
to Constantinople, thence to Rome, and is said by Ammi-
anus Marcellinus to have been dedicated to Rameses, King
of Egypt. It was transferred to this city by Constantine
the son of the Great, and is full of hieroglyphics, serpents,
men, owls, falcons, oxen, instruments, &c., containing (as
Father Kircher the Jesuit will shortly tell us in a book
which he is ready to publish) all the recondite and abstruse
learning of that people. The vessel, galley, or float, that
brought it to Rome so many hundred leagues must needs
have been of wonderful bigness and strange fabric. The
stone is one and entire, and [having been thrown down]
was erected by the famous Dom. Fontana for that magni-
ficent Pope, Sextus V., as the rest were ; it is now cracked
in many places, but solidly joined. The obelisk is thus
inscribed at the several facciatas :

Fl. Constantinus Augustus, Constantini August! F. Obeliscum a patre
suo motum diuq; Alexandria jacentem, trecentorum remigum impo-
situm navimirandsevastitatis per mare Tyberimq ; magnismolibusRomam
convectum in Circo Max. ponendura S.P.Q.R.D.D.

On the second square :

PI. Constantinus Max : Aug : Christians fidei Vindex & Assertor,
Obeliscum ab JEgyptio Rege impure voto Soli dicatum, sedibus avulsum
suis per Nilum transfer. Alexandriam, ut novam Romam ab se tune
conditam eo decoraret monumento.

On the third :

Sextus V. Pontifex Max : Obeliscum hunc specie eximia tempornm

Online LibraryJohn EvelynDiary and correspondence, To which is subjoined the private correspondence between King Charles I. and Sir Edward Nicholas, and between Sir Edward Hyde, afterwards earl of Clarendon, and Sir Richard Browne (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 46)