Edward Augustus Freeman.

Sketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice online

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style be the corrupt Gothic of Italy. One merit is that the arches
which spring from the huge pillars, though wide, are not
sprawling - not like those which those who do not dare to think for
themselves are called on to admire in the nave of the Florentine
_duomo_. Unlike the work of Arnolfo, the Dominican church of Treviso
does not look one inch shorter or lower than it is. It has too the
interest of much contemporary painting and other ornamental work. The
smaller Benedictine church hard by, whose bell-tower groups so well
with Saint Nicolas, employs in that bell-tower a trefoil arch, a
strange form to spring from mid-wall shafts. Within there is not much
to look at, beyond a tablet setting forth the glories of the
Benedictine order, how many emperors, empresses, kings, queens, popes,
cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and so forth, belonged to it. Dukes,
marquesses, counts, and knights, were unnumbered. It is a strange
thought that to that countless band Bec added the full manhood and
long monastic life of Herlwin, that Saint Peter of Shrewsbury and
Saint Werburh of Chester had severally the privilege of enrolling Earl
Roger and Earl Hugh, each for a few days only, as members of the
brotherhood of Benedict and Anselm.

The other friars' church, that of Saint Francis, has been less lucky
than its Dominican rival. Desecrated and partitioned, its inside is
now inaccessible; the outside promises well for a church of its own
type. Yet how feeble after all are the very best of these Italian
buildings which forsook their own native forms for a hopeless attempt
to reproduce the forms of other lands. We are always told that Italian
Gothic cannot be Northern Gothic, because Italy is not like Northern
lands. True enough; but what that argument proves is that Italy should
have kept to her own natural Romanesque, the true fruit of her own
soil, and should never have meddled with forms which could not be
transplanted in their purity. The great fact of Italian architectural
history is that the native style never was thoroughly driven out, but
that, alongside of the sham Gothic, true Romanesque lived on to lose
itself in the earlier and better kind of _Renaissance_. The open
arcades of streets and houses, and the bell-towers of the churches,
largely remain really Romanesque in style at all dates. For the
working out of the same law in greater buildings we must make our way
south-eastward. The chronicler of the eleventh century hinted that
Treviso was near to Venice, and the men of the fourteenth century
acted on the hint. But the wise Doge, who a generation later told his
people to stick to the sea and leave the land behind, knew better
where the true subject and neighbour lands of Venice lay. We cannot
fully obey him as yet, as we have still points on the Italian mainland
to visit. But we may still keep the true goal of our pilgrimage before
our eyes, and we may remember that the lands which were most truly
near to Venice were those lands, subject and hostile, to which the
path lay by her own element. The lessons of which we begin to get a
glimpse at Treviso we shall not learn in their fulness till we have
reached the other side of Hadria.


1875 - 1881.

Ought the antiquarian traveller who has taken up his quarters at Udine
and has thence made an expedition to Cividale to counsel his
fellow-inquirers to follow his example in so doing or not? The answer
to this question may be well made largely to depend on the state of
the weather. It would be dangerous to say, from an experience of two
visits only, that at Udine and Cividale it always either rains or has
very lately rained; but those are the only two conditions in which we
can speak of those places from personal knowledge. Now it is wonderful
how a heavy rain damps the zeal of the most inquiring spirit,
especially if he be carrying on his inquiries by himself. If he has
companions, a good deal of wet may be shaken off by the process of
talking and laughing at the common bad luck. If he be alone, every
drop sticks; he has nothing to do but to grumble, and he has nobody to
listen to his grumblings but himself. The land may be beautiful, but
its beauties are half hid; the buildings may have the most taking
outlines, but it is impossible to make a drawing of them. Even
interiors lose their cheerfulness; the general gloom makes half their
details invisible; and his own depression of spirit makes the inquirer
less able than usual to understand and appreciate what he can see.
Udine and Cividale on a fine day are something quite unlike Udine and
Cividale in the rain. But even in this more cheerful state of things,
when the rain has to be spoken of in the past tense, it may happen
that the past puts serious difficulties in the way of the enjoyment of
the present. Cividale is undoubtedly more pleasant and more profitable
to see when the rain is past than when the rain is actually falling.
But then, to judge from our two experiences, Cividale is easier to get
at while the rain is actually falling than when it has ceased to fall.
What in the one state of things is the half-dry _ghiara_ of an Alpine
stream becomes a flood covering the road for no small distance, and
suggesting, to all but the most zealous, the thought of turning back.
It is only those for whom the attractions of the spot which once was
the Forum Julii are strong indeed, who will pluck up heart to go on
when their carriage has sometimes to be helped on by men who are used
to wade through the flood, or else is forced to leave what should have
been the high road for a narrow and difficult path across the fields.
It is well to record these things, that those who stay at home may be
put in mind that, even in perfectly civilized lands, topographical
knowledge is not always to be got without going to some little trouble
in the search after it. We have seen Udine and Cividale wet, and we
have seen them dry, but then it was when they had been wet only a very
short time before. We are tempted to think that we might understand
them better at some time when the rainfall was neither of the present
nor of the very recent past.

One thing however is certain, that, wet or dry, not many Englishmen
make the experiment of trying to find out what this corner of Italy
may have to show. Not an English name, save that of one specially
famous and adventurous traveller, was to be seen in the visitors'
book, either in Albergo dell' Italia at Udine or in the Museum at
Cividale. The true traveller is always in a doubtful state of mind
when he finds a place of interest neglected by his own countrymen. On
the one hand he is personally relieved, as being set free from the
gabble of English tourists at _tables d'hôte_ and the like. But how
far ought he to proclaim to the world the merits of the place which he
has found out for himself? How can he draw the line, so as to lead
travellers to come, without holding out the least inducement to mere
tourists? But perhaps the danger is not great; tourists will go only
where it is the fashion to go, and the historical traveller must not
think of himself more highly than he ought to think or fancy that it
is for such as he to create a fashion.

* * * * *

We will suppose then that our traveller has started from Treviso, and
has reached the frontier town of Italy in the modern sense of the
name. We have seen that the existence of the place in Roman times
under the name of Vedinum can be proved and no more. The importance
and history of Udine, _Utinum_, are wholly mediæval. It takes the
place of Forum Julii as the capital of Friuli the district which keeps
the name which has passed away from the city. It is one of the
eccentricities of nomenclature that the other Forum Julii in southern
Gaul has kept its name, but in the still more corrupted shape of
_Fréjus_. The new head of the Venetian borderland - Venetia in the
older sense - went through the usual course of the neighbouring cities
with one feature peculiar to itself. Not a patriarchal see, Udine was
a patriarchal capital, the capital of the patriarchs of Aquileia in
that temporal character which for a long while made the bishops of the
forsaken city the chief princes of that corner of Italy.

Like Treviso, but somewhat later, Udine had to undergo a Hungarian
siege, when the Magyar crown had passed by marriage from the house of
Anjou to the house of Luxemburg. But we may mark how the different
powers which had something to do with the lands with which we are
concerned are already beginning to gather from the same hands. Lewis,
the enemy of Treviso in 1356, purely western in origin, was purely
eastern in power - King of Hungary and of the lands round about
Hungary, King of Poland by a personal union. Siegmund, the enemy of
Udine in 1411, was already King of Hungary, Margrave of Brandenburg
also, in days when, as Hungary had nothing to do with Austria, so
Brandenburg had nothing to do with Prussia. He was already chosen but
not crowned King of the Romans; he was to be, before he had done, King
of Bohemia, reformer of the Church, and Emperor, last crowned Emperor
not of the Austrian house. Presently the city passed away from the
rule of the patriarchs, but it could hardly be said to pass from a
spiritual to a temporal lord when it came under the direct superiority
of the Evangelist and his Lion. In the war of the League of Cambray it
passed for a moment into the hands of an Austrian Archduke, but one
who wore the crown of Aachen, and bore the titles of Rome without her
crown. The first momentary master saw from the German Austria that
Udine was Maximilian, King of Germany and Emperor-elect. In the
eighteenth century the patriarchs of Aquileia had become harmless
indeed, so harmless that their dignity could be altogether swept away,
and their immediate province divided between the two new
archbishoprics of Udine and Gorizia. Thus Udine, having once been the
temporal seat of an ecclesiastical prince of the highest rank, came,
as a subject city, to hold the highest ecclesiastical rank short of
that which was swept away to make room for its elevation.

* * * * *

Udine is one of those places which keep fortifications of what we may
call the intermediate period, what, in this part of the world, is
specially the Venetian period. Such walls stand removed alike from
those which, even when not Roman in date, closely follow the Roman
type of defences, and from fortifications of the purely modern kind.
The walls of Udine are well preserved and defended with ditches, and,
as they fence in a large space and as there is comparatively little
suburb, they form a prominent feature in the aspect of the town.
Within the town, towering over every other object, is the castle or
citadel, as unpicturesque a military structure as can be conceived,
but perched on a huge mound, like so many of the castles of our own
land. Here is work for Mr. Clark. Is the mound natural or artificial?
Tradition says that it was thrown up by Attila, that he might stand on
it and see the burning of Aquileia. Legendary as such a tale is on the
face of it, it may perhaps be taken as some traditional witness to the
artificial nature of the mound. It would be dangerous to say anything
more positively without minute knowledge both of the geology and of
the præ-historic antiquities of Venetia; but analogy always suggests
that such mounds are artificial, or at least largely improved by art.
Anyhow there the mound is, an earthwork which, if artificial it be,
the Lady of the Mercians herself need not have been ashamed of.

Some of the guide-books call Udine "a miniature Venice;" it is not
easy to see why. There are some canals and bridges in Udine, but so
there are in Milan, Amiens, and countless other towns. There is even a
Rialto; but one hardly sees how it came by its name. The true "piccola
Venezia" is far away in Dalmatia, floating on its islands in the bay
of Salona. The point of likeness to Venice is probably found in the
civic palace and the two neighbouring columns. But these last are only
the usual badges of Venetian rule, and the palace, though it may
suggest the dwelling of the Doges, has no more likeness to it than is
shared by many other buildings of the same kind in Italy. But, like or
unlike to Venice, there is no doubt, even on a rainy day, that the
palace of Udine is a building of no small merit; on a fine day it
might perhaps make us say that it was worth going to Udine to see it.
It is, of course, far smaller than the Doges' palace; and if it lacks
the wonderful intermediate story of the Venetian building, it also
lacks the ugly story above it. The point of likeness, if any, lies in
the arcades, with their columns of true Italian type, slenderer than
those at Venice, and using the pointed arch in the outer and the round
arch in the inner range. But the columns at Udine are not a mere range
like those at Venice. They stand row behind row, almost like the
columns of a crypt, and they supply a profitable study in their
floriated capitals. The pillared space forms the market-place of the
city, and a busy place it is at the times of buying and selling,
filled with the characteristic merchandise of the district, the golden
balls of silk, for whose presence the Venetian land may thank the
adventurous monks of Justinian's day. Some of the columns, and a large
part of the rest of the building, had been renewed between 1875 and
1881. Between those years the palace had been nearly destroyed by
fire. Here was a case of necessary restoration. No rational person
could have been better pleased, either if the palace had been left in
ruins or if it had been repaired in some incongruous fashion. In such
a case as this, the new work is as much in its place as the old, and
the new work at Udine is as worthy as any new work is ever likely to
be to stand side by side with the old. At Udine again, as in many
other places, the thought cannot fail to strike us how thoroughly
these grand public palaces of Italy do but set before us, on a grand
scale and in a more ornamented style, a kind of building of which a
humble variety is familiar enough among ourselves. Many an English
market-town has an open market-house with arches, with a room above
for the administration of justice or any other public purpose. Enlarge
and enrich a building of this kind, and we come by easy steps to the
palace of Udine and to the palace of Venice.

The civic palace is the only building of any great architectural value
in Udine. The metropolitan church contains little that is attractive
for antiquity or for beauty of the higher kind. But the interior,
though of mixed and corrupt style, is not without a certain
stateliness, and its huge octagonal tower would have been a grand
object if its upper stages had been carried up in a manner worthy of
its basement. The streets are largely arcaded; and if the arcades of
Udine supply less detail than those of some other Italian cities, any
arcade is better than none. Udine can at least hold its head higher
than modern Bari, modern Athens, modern Rome. Still at best Udine in
itself holds but a secondary place among Italian cities, and its main
historic interest consists in the way in which the utterly obscure
_Vedinum_ contrived to supplant both Aquileia and Forum Julii. As
things now are, Forum Julii, dwindled to Cividale, has become a kind
of appendage to Udine, and we must make our way thither from what is
now the greater city.

* * * * *

Let us here put on record the memories of an actual journey, as
strengthened and corrected by a later one made under more favourable
circumstances. The accounts in the common guide-books are so meagre,
and it is so impossible to get any topographical books in Udine, that
our inquirer sets out, it must be confessed, with the vaguest notions
of what he is going to see. Gsel-fels was not in those days, and, now
that he has come into being, he has treated the lands at the head of
the Hadriatic a good deal less fully than he has done most other parts
of Italy. The traveller then is promised a store of Roman remains by
one guide-book, and an early Romanesque church by another. He knows
that the greatness of Forum Julii has gone elsewhere, and he is
perhaps led to the belief that he is going to see a fallen city,
perhaps another Aquileia, perhaps even another Salona. One thing is
clear, even in the rain - namely, that the natural surroundings of
Forum Julii are of the noblest kind. The grand position of the place
itself he will not find out till later; but the mist half hides, half
brings out, the fact that Udine lies near, and Cividale lies nearer,
to the great range of the Julian Alps. Here and there their outlines
can be made out; here and there a snowy peak shows itself for a moment
in the further distance. A fertile plain with a mountain barrier, with
broad and rushing rivers to water it - it was clearly a goodly land in
which the old Veneti had fixed themselves, and in which Rome fixed the
Forum of Julius as a colony and garrison to keep their land in

A long and flat road, but with the mountains ever in front, leads on
by several villages with their bell-towers, over what, according to
the accidents of weather, may be either a half-dry _ghiara_ or a deep
flood, till the traveller reaches the place which was Forum Julii, and
which is Cividale. Here he finds himself - a little to his
amazement - in a living town, with walls and gates and towers, with
streets and houses and churches, none of them certainly of the Julian
æra. The town is not very large; it is not a local capital like Udine;
still it is a town, not a village among ruins and fragments like
Aquileia and Salona. But it is plain that Cividale has not forgotten
what she once was; the traveller is set down at the _Grande Albergo al
Friuli_, and the _albergo_ stands in the _Piazza Giulio Cesare_. He
remembers the like name at Rimini, and he begins to cherish hopes that
the treasures of Rimini may have their like at Cividale. In utter
ignorance of what the place may really contain, he seeks for a
bookseller's shop, hoping that some guide-book or plan of some kind
may still be found. The bookseller is soon found, but his shop
contains nothing of the least profit to an inquirer into the remains
of Forum Julii. But the traveller hears that there is a museum; that
promises something: besides the treasures which the museum itself may
contain, such a place commonly implies an intelligent keeper, who
sometimes proves to be a scholar of a high order. But he takes a wrong
turn; no great harm however, as he thereby learns sooner than he
otherwise would have learned the noble natural site of Cividale,
planted on the rocky banks of the rushing stream of the Natisone. He
sees two or three unpromising churches, and looks into the chief of
them, a building of strange and mixed style, but not without a certain
stateliness of general effect. He sees the _Via Cornelio Gallo_, which
promises something, and the _Via del Tempio_, which promises more.
Visions of Nîmes, Vienne, and Pola rise before him; he follows the
track, but he finds nothing in the least savouring of Jupiter or
Diana, and he learns afterwards that the _Tempio_ from which the
street is called is the great church, known, it seems, in a special
way, as _Templum Maximum_. Still the museum is not reached; but a
second inquiry, a second journey to quite another end of the town,
leads to it. The museum is examined; it contains a considerable stock
of objects of the usual kind, fragments of architecture and sculpture,
which witness to the former greatness of Forum Julii. More remarkable
are the specimens of Lombard workmanship, in various forms of armour
and ornament, to say nothing of the actual tomb of the Lombard Duke
Gisulf. At the museum he is put under the friendly guidance of a
kindly priest, by whose care many matters are cleared up. Roman
remains, strictly so called, there are none to see. There have been
diggings, and the walls have been traced out, but all has been covered
up again; outside the museum there is nothing in the pagan line left.
But of Romanesque work the remains, though neither large nor many, are
of high interest. Buried in an Ursuline nunnery, of which the good
father opens the door, is a small Romanesque church of most singular
design, built, so he tells us, in 764, but which, if so, must have
received some further enrichment in the twelfth century. The
sculptures in the western wall are surely of the later date; but the
shell, parts of which in their coupled Corinthian columns strongly
call to mind some of the ancient churches of Rome, may well be of the
earlier date, of the last days of the Lombard kingdom.

Here at last something of no small value has been lighted on. As a
matter of architecture, this church is by far the best thing in
Cividale. Indeed, as a matter of architecture strictly so called, it
is the only thing of any importance. But let the other churches be
gone through again, perhaps only with that relief of the mind which
follows the discovery of an intelligible clue, yet more when old
memories are revived and strengthened by a second visit, and, though
they are of no great value as buildings, they are found to be of no
small interest in other ways. The _Templum Maximum_ indeed, late and
corrupt as is its style, is not without a certain grandeur of internal
effect, and it contains more than one object which calls up historic
memories. There is the chair which cannot in strictness be called
patriarchal, but which was doubtless used by patriarchs when the
spiritual shepherds of Aquileia fled from their wasted home to the
safer shelter of Forum Julii, and ruled its chief church as provosts.
There too on the altar we may see the silver image work of the twelfth
century, the gift of one of the two patriarchs who bore the name of
Peregrinus. And there too is a wonderful object, the indoor
baptistery - for it is more than a font - repaired two years after
Charles the Great had added the style of King of the Lombards to his
Frankish kingship and his Roman patriciate. We may then believe that,
in the columns and round arches of its octagon, we see work of the
date when the land of Forum Julii was still the Austria of an
independent Lombard realm. Other objects of early days are to be found
in even the less promising churches, specially an altar, rich with the
goldsmith's craft, which suggests, though it does not rival, the altar
of Saint Ambrose at Milan. But first among the treasures of Cividale
must rank the precious volume which is still guarded in the treasury
of the great church. This is an ancient book of the gospels, now of
three gospels only, for some zealous Venetian, eager for the honour of
Saint Mark, deemed that the pages which contained his writings were
out of place anywhere except in the Evangelist's own city. The highest
historical value of the book consists in the crowds of signatures
scattered through its margin, signatures of persons great and small,
known and unknown, from the days of the Lombard princes to the
Empress-Queen of the last age and the Bourbon pretender of the
present. When we have grasped the fact that the popular speech of the
surrounding district is Slavonic, we are less surprised than we
otherwise might be to find that a large proportion of the signatures
come from eastern Europe. Among them are a crowd of signatures from
Bulgaria, headed by Michael their king. It is for palæographers to
judge of the date by the writing. And palæographers say that, of the
ancient names, none are earlier than the end of the eighth century or
later than the end of the tenth. Otherwise we might have been driven
to see in this Michael nothing greater than a fourteenth century king
of an already divided Bulgaria. But the great Simeon of an earlier day
left a son Michael, a monk, who left his monastery to strive vainly
for his father's crown. Yet, if the witness of wise men as to the
dates of the writing may be trusted, it must be either the signature
of this Michael or else an utter forgery. But the unenlightened in
such matters asks how the signatures of men of so many lands and ages
got there. Did those whose names were written - for of course few, if
any, would write them themselves - come to the book, or did the book go
to them? The earlier signatures at least are said to be the names of
reconciled enemies who took the holy book to witness that their
enmities were laid aside. This we can neither affirm nor deny, but it
surely cannot apply to all the signatures in the book. The treasury

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Online LibraryEdward Augustus FreemanSketches from the subject and neighbour lands of Venice → online text (page 3 of 23)