H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

A poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient online

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We must wander through this divine temple by sunlight,
when it is solitary, and the beautiful voices stream from the
side-chapel : we must come here during the great festivals :
the music vibrates, the incense perfumes, thousands kneel
down and receive an old man's blessing. Everything beams
with light, everything glows with gold and colors ! The most
famous pictures dispersed through Rome's palaces are here
copied in mosaic work, and are made altar pieces. Yet one
altar here has no painting or mosaic ; two gigantic figures in
papal robes support a throne, but no one sits in it except the
invisible God. Immense marble statues stand forth from the
shining walls. 1

But what does that dark bronze statue, under a throne
covered with gold and purple, signify ? The papal guards
stand on each side, and the people kiss the feet of that bronze
figure. It is the image of St. Peter. It was once Jupiter's ;
the lightning is torn from his hand ; she now holds the keys.

1 Each statue here represents tne founder of an order of monks ; thus,
we see the prophet Elias ; a burning wheel represents the glowing car in
which he ascends to heaven ; he stands as the representative of the Carme-
lite monks.


The old gods live yet in Rome. The stranger bends his knee
to them in the museum ; the people kiss their feet in the
church. The old gods still live ; that is the beginning and
the end of the story.



THE further the Swede, Norwegian, and Dane travels from
home, the louder sings the heart of each when they meet

" We are one people, we are called Scandinavians ! " When
I was in Rome, in 1833, the three nations kept their Christ-
mas Eve in company, like one family. Song and mirth do
not agree with the Roman solemnity on the Saviour's natal
festival, therefore, we could not be merry within the gates of
the city ; but yet we did not lose our pleasure. No city is so
tolerant as Rome. They let us have a fine suite of rooms out-
side the city gates ; a large house in the Villa Borghese, in
the midst of a grove of pines close to the modern amphithea-
tre. We ornamented the saloon with garlands and wreaths ',
the flowers we plucked from the garden. The air was mild
and warm ; it was a Christmas like a fine summer's day at

We must have a Christmas-tree, a fir-tree, as in the North ;
but here it was too valuable a treasure. We must, said they,
be contented with two large orange-trees which were sawn
from the roots, and were full of fruit which was not fastened
to the branches, but which grew out of them. We were about
fifty Scandinavians, including seven ladies, who wore wreaths
of living roses around their brows : we men had wreaths of
ivy. The three nations had subscribed to purchase presents
which were to be gained by lottery. The best prize was a
silver cup, with the inscription, " Christmas Eve in Rome,
l ^33 : " this was a gift from the three nations. And who won
it ? I was the lucky one.

Toward midnight the elder part of the company broke
up and returned to Rome. Bystrom and Thorwaldsen were
imongst them, and I accompanied them.



The city gate was locked, but that we might enter we were
told that we must give three loud raps with the knocker, and
cry out, " Gli Scandinavi."

I thought of Holberg's comedy, where Kilian knocks at the
gates of Troy ; and so I took hold of the knocker, gave the
signal, and our password, " Gli Scandinavi"

A little wicket in the gate was opened, and one by one we
crept into that city of the world.

It was a merry Christmas ! The night was warm and mild
as a summer night in the North.

And now, the same evening, in 1840, no one had thought
of any arrangement for Christmas.

Every one sat at home. It was cold weather ; the fire in
the stove would not warm my chamber.

Thought flew far away ; it flew toward the North.

Now, it whispered, there is the Yule-tree lighted up with a
hundred parti-colored lights ; the children exult in sweetest
happiness ! Now they sit around the table at home, sing a
song, and drink a health to absent friends. There is hilarity in
the town, there is mirth in the country, in the old mansion.
The passages are ornamented with firs and lights ; carpets
are laid on the stairs ; the servants, neatly dressed, trip busily
up and down. The music sounds, and the procession begins ;
it proceeds to the large ball-room ! O, Christmas is a merry
time in the North.

I left my solitary chamber ! People flocked to the Church
Maria Maggiore.

Some few lamps burned within the church. Men, women,
and children, who had wandered hither from the Campagna
and the mountains, sat and lay on the steps leading to the
chapels and altars in the side aisles. Some of the poor
folks had fallen asleep from very weariness ; others counted
their beads.

The candles were now lighted. The whole church shone
with purple and gold. The incense spread its perfumes, the
muoic resounded, the anthem announced " Glory to the new-
born King ! " The old Cardinals bore the cradle of Christ on
their shoulders through the aisles of the church, and the people
saw a ray of glory around it, brighter than that shed by the


the thousand lights. It was as if the shepherds sang, and as
if the angels sang. And there came peace and good-will in
the human heart.



WE find large palaces in Rome in narrow, winding streets,
which, if they stood in an open place, would be pronounced
buildings of consequence. I will draw such a one with pen
and ink ; and I hope so correctly, that my readers will be able
to find it again when they know that it is in the street Ripetta
they must look for it.

High piazzas, with finely wrought marble pillars, inclose a
little square court-yard ; statues stand between the pillars, and
in the niches of the walls are disfigured marble images. The
walls are covered with bass-reliefs, and above are colossal
heads of Roman emperors. Grass and creeping plants hang
about the pedestals, and shoot forth from the folds of the mar-
ble drapery. The spider has spun its web, like a mourning
veil, between gods and emperors. In the yard lie cabbage
stalks, lemon peels, and broken bottle cases. Earth has col-
lected in heaps around the sides of the marble sarcophagi
that stand here ; they once inclosed some of Rome's mighty
men ; now, they contain broken pots, salad leaves, and earth.

The broad marble stairs which lead to the saloons of the
palace are still dirtier than the yard. Three bare-legged,
half-frozen beggar-boys sit here in a circle ; the one has a rag-
ged carpet thrown over his shoulders like a cloak, and a reed
as a tobacco-pipe in his mouth. The other has a covering
for his feet of rags bound together with pack-thread. His
coat is so large and wide that it would fold twice round the lad,
and I really believe it serves him, in addition, for trousers.
The third has a hat on, and for the rest a waistcoat, I believe
no more, unless, perhaps, the slipper that lies at the bottom of
the stairs, may claim him for its master. All three are playing
at cards.

Can it interest you to know a little more of these three young


Romans or their families ? Perchance the chief personages
of the family are assembled at this moment on the terrace by
the Piazza del Popolo. Here stands a group of black-bearded
men in striped clothes of blue and white ; it is a well-known
uniform, to which there is generally a chain appended, but it
is usually worn around the legs. These are the Roman galley
slaves. The first one resting there on his spade is father to the
boy who wears the ragged carpet as a cloak across his shoul-
ders. Yes, that is the father ! But he is neither a thief nor a
robber ; he is only a scoundrel ! It is a short story. To vex
his master he became a slave. To vex his master he has placed
contraband goods in his wagon, and he took care that they
should be found ; for the law in Rome demands, in such cases,
that horses and wagon, if even the master be innocent, shall be
forfeited and given to the police. The man becomes a slave
but the master must give fifteen bajocchi to support the slave ;
this is a great expense. If the fellow be industrious, then
every year of his imprisonment consists but of eight months,
and he receives the highest payment for his work.

This is the shrewd calculation he makes, as he leans on
his spade :

" Master has lost his wagon and horses ! Master must
every day pay money for my board ! I have free lodging, con-
stant work, the highest wages, and I am an extolled slave !
and that is, perhaps, more than my son will ever be."

On the promenade close by, rolls a light little gig. A rich
Frenchman, of some thirty and odd years, is driving. He has
been in Rome before ; it is more than eight years ago. He
now shows his young wife about in the first city in the world.
They have just seen to-day a beautiful female statue by Ca-
nova, and admired it ; and the Frenchman knew those graceful
forms which are now immortalized in marble but he did not
say so. The beautiful Giuditta is dust ; her son is the second
boy amongst the card-players ; he wraps himself up in his
large coat, and the father wraps himself up in his rich mantle,
as he hurries on along the promenade.

The third little fellow, with hat and waistcoat ! Yes, where
shall we find his parents ? yet we have the scent.

Under a tree in the avenue stands a little wrinkled woman


with her fire-pot on her arm ; she begs for a little money in
the name of Madonna ! She cannot be the boy's grand-
mother, still less his mother. No, but she is the only one that
can tell us something about him.

In the direction of the bridge Castel d'Angelo, there is a
street leading from St. Peter's Place. In this street there is a
large building, and in the walls there is a movable niche dec-
orated with the same sort of stuff as the slaves' clothes. Ai
the bottom of the niche there is a soft pillow. It turns round
on a pivot, and close by there is a large bell. Nine years ago
this little wrinkled woman came here, laid a little bundle in
the niche, turned it round, rang the bell, and hastened away
This is the Foundling Hospital.

The third boy comes from thence. The old woman could
tell us the whole story, but of what use would it be ? The
rich young Signora is far away in that floating Venice, a pattern
of severity and of pure morals. But her son he is well off!
he sits on marble, and plays out the trumps.

These three boys are good subjects for the pencil. The ex-
pression in the eyes every movement the dirty cards and
the thick cloud of smoke from the cigars ! That is a group.

They are disturbed by a flock of turkeys, which two peas-
ants, with long white sticks, drive up the marble stairs to one
of the higher saloons, where the purchaser lives, and where
they will have permission to waddle about for some few days
on the stone floor under the painted ceiling that displays the
rich arms of the deceased race.



MOST persons require some sensual provocative, ere on
fixed days and hours they are able to raise their minds to de-
votion ; and the Catholic Church service has such an in-
fluence, but it loses too much by the ceremonies. It seems
as if the Church had not rightly understood the doctrine, that
unless we be as children, we cannot enter the kingdom of


heaven, for it often regards its congregation as children,
who see and believe, who live in dreams more than in

Every festival that I have seen in Rome included a really
fine idea or thought ; but the explication thereof was often, if
I may use the expression, made too corporeal. They would
show to the external sense what only belongs to feeling, and
hence, a soulless caricature, not a devotional picture, was pre-
sented to view.

I believe that all well-educated Catholics will agree with
me in this ; for whenever my religious feelings have been
wounded at these festivals, I never saw any other congrega-
tion than people of the very lowest class, whose mental con-
ceptions stand on a level with the child's.

There is, undeniably, something beautiful in the idea that
Christians one day in the year remember the first Christian
brethren who suffered and died for the faith, and, as it were,
sealed its power and holiness with their blood. Thus the
Catholics have a feast for the martyrs, and one of the most
splendid churches in Rome is dedicated to them. It is
opened but once in the year, the 26th of December, when all
within is a blaze of light, and the floor as well as the way
thither is strewed with evergreens ; but here nothing is shown
to impress the thought of greatness of mind in the martyrs, or
of strength in the belief which gave them courage to offer up
their lives for it. The death of the martyrs is represented in
glaring pictures round about : we see a row of horrible execu-
tions ; here the breasts of a woman are cut off; there one is
torn to death ; here the eyes are plucked out ; there another
cut limb from limb, and then roasted or boiled.

We turn away from these disgusting scenes ; the mind feels
oppressed by this sight, instead of being filled by spiritual

There is something poetically beautiful in celebrating
Christmas as a children's festival ; but the manner in which
it is celebrated in the Church of Ara Cceli in Rome, annihi-
lates the beauty of the idea by its material performance.

One of the side chapels in the left aisle of the church is
completely transformed into a theatre, with side scenes, wings,



and decorations. The scene presents a rural country. Here
sits a figure representing Madonna, dressed in real clothes ;
on her lap rests the infant Jesus formed of wax, and glittering
with gold and jewels ; Joseph stands by her side, while the
shepherds bring their offerings. The Almighty, surrounded
by angels, painted on pasteboard, is seen in the clouds.

The Papal soldiers keep guard before this exhibition, which
is well lighted ; a table is placed by one of the nearest pillars,
and on this mothers set their children, and those quite little
ones of five or six years : one child then runs over a poem
concerning the child Jesus or Christmas. It frequently hap-
pens that the little preacher either becomes afraid, and stops
suddenly, or raises his little voice so comically, that the whole
audience begin to laugh. But it is not only one that speaks ;
we often see two, or even three little girls placed side by side,
who carry on a dialogue in verse about Bambino's beauty.

This festival is at its highest on the 6th of January. I was
there : it was a rainy day, with a sirocco ; the strong perfume
of the incense was oppressive, being blended with the per-
spiration and breath of the garlic-eating peasants, and the
dirty, ragged beggars. I felt myself quite unwell. The festi-
val, however, went on. A little girl said her verse boldly ; a
mass was sung, and then the procession through the church
to the little theatre commenced. One of the monks climbed
up to it, took the infant Jesus out of Madonna's arms, and
then crawled down again with it ; but at this moment a whole
choir of music joined in with the liveliest airs. Cymbals and
drums resounded through the church ; it was a march like
one in an opera buffa ! It was intended to express the
heart's jubilee, that an infant Saviour was given to mankind ;
but this scene made my blood run chill. I felt myself seized
with disgust, and sought the door. Some peasants, who at-
tempted to cross the aisle through which the procession was
to pass, were struck on the chest by two powerful monks, so
;hat they staggered back ; but I, as a stranger, was allowed
to pass. I sought the doorway, but the whole procession fol-
lowed, quick march, behind me, and were on the high stairs
as soon as myself. The rain poured down ; the bishop raised
the infant Jesus in his arms to the crowd without ! All fel-


on their knees. A cry from the nearest monk of " An um
brella ! an umbrella ! the child will be wet ! " sounded in my

I felt as if I had left a profaned temple of God. " Father
forgive them, they know not what they do," was my involun-
tary prayer. The church, Jesus, and the Virgin Mary, were
too holy in my breast for these meretricious ceremonies.

I must speak of another festival, which, considered as to its
intention, is Christianly beautiful, but which, carried into
effect, is more comic than edifying. The design is this : that
even animals should partake of the Lord's grace and blessing.

On a certain day, or rather in a stated week, for if one
day be not sufficient, the festival is extended to several days
in succession, the peasant leads his ass, and even sometimes
his pig, to St. Anthony's Church, to be sprinkled with holy
water, and thereby preserved from sickness and witchcraft.
All the horses, from the vetturino's broken-down hack to the
Pope's own steeds, come to the church, which stands open,
and on all the altars are candles. The floor is strewn with
evergreens, the walls thickly hung with pictures, painted al
fresco, but miserably executed. They are representations of
St. Anthony's temptations. In one place the devil comes and
knocks at his door ; in another place the devil stands mock-
ing at the glory of the saints. The whole space before the
cloister is filled with people. Here are groups for a painter !

Side by side stand carriages filled with strangers all stand-
ing up to see the show ; horse-soldiers keep the streets clear.
Now comes a carriage filled with children, who are so happy
because the horses are about to be blessed ; now comes
another carriage with a pious old married couple, who cross
themselves as they stop before the cloister door, where the
monk stands with a plasterer's brush in his hand, and sprin-
kles the horses with holy water. A chorister gives a picture
of St. Anthony to the coachman, and for this he receives one
or more wax tapers, which are afterward consecrated in the
cloister, and sold at a high price.

It is quite picturesque to see the peasant boys on the
horses that are to be blessed ; they do not sit on the back of
the animal, but quite near the tail. Ribbons of various colors


flutter from their pointed hats ; their jackets and trousers are
so patched, that one cannot tell which was the original fabric
of their clothes.

I saw a little old woman dragging a very small ass along ,
it had silk ribbons around its tail, and on each haunch was
pasted a little pig made out of gilt paper ! The old woman
stood before the monk with great devotion, bowed low, and
crossed herself. The boys pricked the little ass under the
tail with long pins, so that the soldiers were obliged to come
to the aid of the poor woman and her ass.

From the cloister door the peasant rides in full trot across
the place to one of the open inns, and enters the room with
the animal, sits down at the long deal table, where the other
peasants are seated drinking, in order that he may become an
animal himself to-day, and gain admission to the blessing. 1

I must, in this place, mention a festival which, although it
does not belong to those of the Church, is yet in a manner
connected with them ; it is the feast of languages in Propa-
ganda, which they give, as it is called, " in onore dei santi re.
magi." We may, with equal justice, call Propaganda an uni-
versal academy, or a Noah's ark, just as we feel disposed.
Young men from all parts of the world are educated here for
missionaries. Here are children from California to China,
from Ireland to the Cape of Good Hope; every one of them
repeats a poem by rote in his native tongue. But a man must
be a Mezzofanti to profit by this Babel-like Anthology.

1 On the same day they lead sheep ornamented with rosettes and gold
to the Church of St. Agnes, outside the walls of the city, and there bless
them. The legend, which is very ancient, tells us of St. Agnes, that she
was equally beautiful and innocent; and that, accordingly, when she re-
fused to deny her Christian faith, she was led into a house dedicated to
vice, where the soldiers and vagabonds found women of vicious habits.
Agnes was dragged naked into a chamber, and delivered over to two
rough soldiers : but at the same moment, says the legend, her fine long
hair became still longer and thicker than before, so that it hung like a
cloak around her shoulders, and down to her feet ; and, as the soldien
were about to lay hands on her, a shining angel stepped between them
and her, so that they were frightened, and fled. Pure and undented, she
met her death on the pyre. A church, dedicated to St. Agnes, is now
erected where that vile house stood, and a chapel in the cellar is shorn-
as the chamber in which she was protected by the angel. The church
stands on Piazza Navona.


It is elevating to see how far around the globe this blessing-
bringing Christian doctrine makes its way ; but it is with the
auditory in Propaganda as with the spectators at the before
mentioned ceremonies ; they have not time to retain what is
elevating in thought, which the feast itself might superinduce ;
they are made to laugh, and where laughter predominates
devotion is gone.

The young men of the Propaganda receive the Cardinals
and all strangers who come to the festival ; we are conducted
to a seat, and after an introduction, which is uttered in Latin,
poems are recited in forty-four languages. The less the audi-
ence understand of these poems, the more they applaud ; it
was so at least on this occasion, when I heard them cheer
loudest an Ethiopian and two Chinese, their languages sound-
ing most like gibberish and awaking the loudest laughter.
During the repetition of a German poem, I saw two Italian
monks of the Capuchin order laugh to a degree, at what was
to them so curious a language, that they were nearly falling
to the floor.

The most different languages and dialects are to be heard in
this place ; sometimes they also sing a song which maybe very
interesting, but is never pretty. The impression of the whole
feast is that of a burlesque representation. We understood
nothing, and laughed at what sounded meaningless in our ears.

Meanwhile, we read year after year in the German newspa-
pers about the great effect of this festival ; but the effect is
really only this we laugh. 1

All the ceremonies I have described made so deep an im-
pression on me, that I could not pass them over ; albeit there
is much, great and peculiar, that I shall omit from this my
collection of pictures of Rome. These pages, however, would
press upon my mind like a millstone if I thought they could

1 The young ecclesiastic, a German, who showed me my place in it, talked
with great animation of the celebration, and repeated several times, " One
vily gets such sights in the world's city, Rome ! " This expression, which
has nothing remarkable about it in itself considered, I would not bring for-
ward here, had not a correspondent of Allegemeine Zeitung, in a bombastic
account of the Propaganda feast, put these words into rcy mouth, to show
what an effect this display had upon all foreigners.


give offense to a single enlightened Catholic ; but this I can
n t believe. I have stated facts ; but I respect everything
that is truly religious in every creed, and in every sincere be-



IT was in the beginning of February, but on a beautiful
sunny day : the almond-trees were in bloom. A carriage,
wherein were three Danes, 1 rolled down the old Via Tibur-
tina, past the Church of St. Lorenzo ; they must see the fall-
ing waters at Tivoli by torch-light. Ruins of monuments
of ancient times, and shattered towers of the Middle Ages,
stand conspicuous on the rugged Campagna. Herdsmen in
sheep-skin jackets, and with a picture of the Madonna on their
pointed, sun-burnt hats, lean against the dilapidated walls
where a fire is lighted, and from whence the blue gray smoke
rises into the air.

We already felt the poisonous stench from the little river
Solfatara. It is but a rivulet, yet its poisonous vapors have
killed all the fresh shoots of grass and herbs around it ; a
brimstone yellow scum flows down the foul water. We drove
at full gallop, and were soon out of that pestilential district
The river Anio, with its fresh stream, rush grown banks, and
picturesque tower bade us welcome to the mountain territory.

Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 9 of 31)