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Bishops among them, to have previously visited the
Limina Apostolorum. But this is apparently an ana-
chronism, as the Culdees do not appear in history
till above a century after St. Ninian's time.

Leland too places the visit to Rome after he had
been engaged in missionary labours in Britain ; but he
gives no authorities, and mentions the subject so inci-
dentally, and without noticing the different account
given in the received Lives, that we should rather
suspect him of a mistake in memory as to the Saint's
history, than of so slightingly opposing the best au-
thorities for the history.


Sf. Xiiiians Journci) to Rome.

The date of this journey we cannot accurately deter-
mine. It was certainly before the year 385 ; for the
Pope by whom St. Ninian was consecrated and sent as
a missionary to Britain was not the one in whose Pon-
tificate he arrived in Rome. St. Siricius was his con-
secrator, and he was elected Pope on the death of
St. Damasus in 385. Prior then to this date, and
during the Popedom of St. Damasus, was the time of


St. Ninian's aiTival ; and we should conjecture that it
was prior to the year 383, as there is not iu his Life
any reference to the convulsion occasioned by the re-
volt of" Maximus, which introduced great changes into
Britain and Gaul, by the emigration of a considera-
ble portion of the British nation to Brittany. Per-
haps 381 may be conjectured, when he was twenty-one
years of age or upwards.

By the assistance of the Itineraries Ave may trace
the route by which Ninian would travel from his
northern home, near Caidisle, to the great city. The
road began either on the south of the Solway, or in
Annandale, and ran through Carlisle by Old Penrith,
where a noble military way may still be traced, thence
by the vale of the Eden to Brough, and over the
dreary hills of Stainmoor. Here Ninian would have
the last glimpse of those mountains within sight of
which he had spent his youth, and the remembrance
of which, with all the associations of friends and kin-
di'ed, is so deeply engraven on the heart. He would
cross the moorlands and travel along a road which
runs by Bowes and Catterick, and which we still enjoy
as an inheritance from our Roman conquerors, and
so to York.

Tliis was, as we have said, the second city of Britain,
the residence of the governors, and the See of an Arch-
bishop, and here most probably the young prince
would receive commendatory letters to other Catholic
Bishops, and particularly to Rome. Hence he would
proceed by the great line of Watling street to London,
and Sandwich. This was the port from which they
sailed for Boulogne. Passing tlu-ough Rheims, then
an episcopal city, he would come to Lyons, that first
cradle of the Church of Gaul, consecrated by the


memory of her martyrs, and her sainted Bishop, St.
Irenteus. It was now a great city, but more interest-
ing to St. Ninian, as it was now probably presided
over by one who, during the period of Arian trials,
had been the firm maintainer of the Catholic faith
— St. Justus. He was the friend of St. Ambrose, and
Bishop from 370 to 381, when he resigned his office
and retired to Egypt, to embrace a monastic life, and
end liis days in devotion and peace.

The direct road from Lyons to Milan over the
Great St. Bernard, was steep, narrow, and impass-
able for carriages ; another from Vienne by the Little
St. Bernard, was more circuitous but easier ; they
united at Aosto. His Biographer especially mentions
that he crossed the Gallic Alps, to impress us, as it
would seem, with the arduousness of a journey, terrible
from its natural difficulties, and dangerous from the
robbers who infested it ; for not many years before St.
Martin had been attacked here, and saved from murder
only by a miracle.

He now entered Italy, and came among cities and
Churches associated with the names and lives of Saints
distinguished in the history of religion ; and these
Avould be the objects on which his thoughts would fix.
Nature indeed spread before him her most sublime and
then her loveliest scenery. The world presented riches
and splendour. He might encounter on the road the
magnificent equipages and retinue of the wealthy
Roman, coaches of solid silver, mules with trappings
embossed with gold, horsemen preceding to clear the
way, and a train of baggage and attendants, cooks,
slaves, eunuchs, marshalled like an army. But he
was proof against these seductive imaginations ; the nil
admirori is not so effectually pi'oduced by any philoso-

44 ST. NIXIAn's journey to ROME.

pliy as by the calm recollection of the Christian, whose
guarded eye does not allow him to forget the shadowy
nature of what is seen, and the reality of those things
wliich are not seen ; and he would esteem above all the
beauties of nature or of art, the Church in each place
he came to, and the pious Christians Avhom Ik- miglit
meet Avith.

And there was one of these places wliich was con-
nected in an interesting way Avith his own future his-
tory — Vercelii, through which the road from Lyons
to Milan passed. Its late Bishop, St. Eusebius, had
inti'oduced here, for the first time in the western
Church, the union of the clerical and monastic life,
which was afterwards adopted by St. Ninian. St. Eu-
sebius had died ten years before, but the system
was still kept up ; and it may not be out of place
hei'e to give St. Ambrose's description of it, as it will
by anticipation describe the episcopal life of St. Ninian.

The Bishop and Clergy lived together in one house,
shut out from the world, and adopting the way of life
of the Egyptian monks, having all things in common,
and devoting their days and nights to continued prayer
and praise, labour and study. " Can any thing," says
the Saint, speaking of their society, " can any thing be
more admirable than their way of life, in which there
is nothing to fear, and every thing worthy of imitation ;
where the austerity of fasting is compensated by tran-
quillity and peace of mind, supported by example,
made sweet by habit, and cheered by virtuous occupa-
tions. A life not disturbed by temporal cares, nor dis-
tracted by the tumults of the world, nor interrupted
by idle visits, nor relaxed by intercourse with the
world." Thus, under the eye of the Bishop himself,
Clergy were trained up, of whom he personally knew

ST. NINIAN's journey to ROME. 45

the blamelessness, piety, and zeal ; while their cha-
racters were so esteemed, that other Churches sought
their Bishops from him, and many distinguished Pre-
lates were sent out from his school.

In after days, St. Ninian, on the coast of Galloway,
might recall to his mind the time when he had seen
Vercelli, and the first model of a system which, with
some modifications, was soon generally embraced, both
by missionaries and in settled churches, and is the
original of the chapters of our cathedrals.

The road brought him from Lyons to Milan, Avhich
from the year 303 had been the chief residence of the
Emperors of the west, and soon assumed the splendour
of an imperial city. In the number and beauty of the
houses, the gay and polished manners of the people,
and the magnificence of the public buildings, it seemed
to rival, and not sufifer in comparison from the prox-
imity of, Rome. In this place St. Ambrose was Bishop,
and even to the eyes of the world that great man
would appear the most important object in Milan.
The popular voice had taken him from a high civil
position to be their Bishop, and he was such an one
that Theodosius recognized in him a realizing of all
a Bishop ought to be. His people were devoted to
him, and his influence could withstand and control
the highest earthly sovereigns. And yet so simple was
his life that Ninian might have seen or conversed with
him. He gave himself Avholly to the work of the min-
istry. Constant in prayer, by day and night, he slept
little and fasted daily. Yet he was accessible to all. St.
Augustine generally found him surrounded by crowds
of persons and full of business. His time which was not
thus occupied, and it was but little, was given to re-
freshment or reading, and he read where any one might

46 ST. ninian's journey to rojie.

come to him ; no one was hindei'cd, nor was it usual
for them to be announced, so that Augustine would
come and stay in the room, and leave again, unwilling
to interrupt liim. He preached every Sunday, and
Ninian may have listened to that eloquence which
melted the stubborn heart of him who afterwards was
St. Augustine, and which we may read with so much

But Rome was his object, and he hastened forwards.
The Via Flaminia brought him to the shore of the
Adriatic, to the fatal Ariminum, connected with
recollections most distressing to every Christian, and
to a Briton still more so, as the scene where the
Bishops of his Church had fallen into an allowance of
heresy. But better days were coming to the Church ;
for whilst the Eastern Bishops had met at Constanti-
nople, and republished the Nicene Faith ; in the year
381, perhaps the very one in wliich St. Ninian was
travelling through Italy, councils were held at Aquileia
and Milan, were St. Ambrose was most distinguished
for his zeal for the maintenance of the true Faith.
Keeping along the coast to the Metaurus, the road
there turned inland, and crossing the passes of the
Apennines, led on to Rome.

And what a scene must Rome have presented to St.
Ninian as he beheld it on his approach, and saw the
wide gilded roof of the Capitol, or the gorgeous splen-
dour of the Palatium rising above the innumerable
buildings which surrounded them. Or as he passed
through the Forums, or under the Temples or Basilicas
which overhung its streets, how vast must it have ap-
peared in the multitudes of its people, and the grandeur
of its edifices. Above a million, some say many mil-
lions of inhabitants, were enclosed within a circuit of

ST. NINIAn's journey to ROME. 47

twenty miles. The luxurious villas and gardens whicli
were spread around it, hemmed in the portion occupied
by dwellings, so that the houses rose to a tremendous
and dangerous height, far exceeding the limit of 70
feet, which law had imposed ; yet these were broken
by wide places around on which stood the most magni-
ficent specimens of ancient architecture ; and porticos,
arches, columns, and statues, were seen on every side.
The palaces of the nobles, now numbered at nearly
2000, from their enormous establishments of slaves,
were little towns of splendid architecture, with marble
columns and gilded statues, each comprising within
itself " every thing which could be subservient to use
or luxury, forums, temples, fountains, baths, porticos,
with shady groves and artificial aviaries." An over-
grown population of poor and idle citizens occupied
at an enormous rent the different floors and rooms of
the crowded houses, intent only on the daily doles of
food and the public entertainments of the Circus.

The pomp of heathen worship still remained, though
its privileges and revenues were diminished. Half the
senate at least still adhered to the ancient superstitions,
and garlands, processions, and victims might be seen,
whilst the smoke and odour of sacrifices and incense
still rose on every side. The rich, unoccupied by
political or mercantile pursuits, spent their days in idle
and frivolous pleasures, and a continual round of dissi-
pation. There might be seen the rich senator, in ele-
gant and costly dress, making his way tlirough the
streets, attended by some fifty slaves ; or sailing in his
barge, screened by silken awnings and listening to lux-
urious music. Their wealth was enormous, and it was
seen in their display of gold and silver plate, the mag-
nificence of their establishments, the number of their

48 ST. NINIAN'S journey to ROME.

slaves, and the lavish expenditure of their exhibitions
and public entertainments. Luxury and refinement
seemed to have reached their utmost limit, and the
great metropolis of the world to be sinking down, worn
out by its own effeminacy.

There were, indeed, schools of learning, supported
and regulated by the state, and a great university,
to which students from every part of the empire
resorted, to obtain the advantage of a Roman edu-
cation ; and the philosophical professor might be
known by his peculiar dress. The teachers were for
the most part men opposed to the Christian faith,
who, by a revived and modified Platonism, ex-
plained away the grosser features of Polytheism, and
put forwai-d views of philosophy and morals, which,
with the utmost zeal and talents, they opposed to the
doctrines of the Gospel. Here Ammianus publicly
read his admired history, the eloquent and virtuous
Symmachus pleaded almost with fanaticism for the
toleration of the religion of their fathers ; and tlie
philosophers (as Eunapius and Libanius) published
explanations of the popular religion, and attributed
miracles to the distinguished leaders of their schools,
which had not long before received a temporary
patronage under the apostate Julian.

Such were the varied and strange objects which, so
far as it was not Christian, Rome presented to the
view of the British stranger, who now made his way
along its streets. Nor indeed would the Christian
community seem exempt from the corruption of the
atmosphere in which it lived. Besides the Catholics,
we must remember, there were numerous bodies of
heretics, especially Manichees, assuming the name of
Christians, and sometimes concealing themselves among

ST. NINIAN's journey to ROME. 49

them, who endeavoured, by their subtle disputations,
and professions of austerity, to gain over converts from
the true faith. These were most numerous at Rome,
and lived in a miserable way, dispersed through all the
quarters of the city, and though professing a severe
life, really given up to self-indulgence, and bringing
reproach upon their name by their immoralities and
crimes. Here might be seen parties of Sarabaites,
vagabond and pretended monks, who lived two or
three together, under no rule or government, exhibiting
pretended sanctity, as a cloak for indulgence, fasting
for display, and when a feast came, giving way to
excess. Superstition, too, doubtless existed among the
people, and vices inconsistent with the religion they
professed. For the good, it has been said, are as
grains among the chaff ; here one and there one from
the accident of their position, stand prominently out,
and are discerned almost buried in the surrounding
mass, Avliich gives its own complexion to the whole.
These things would strike the eye of the casual ob-
server, and it might, perhaps, too, surprise one who
had not considered that the Church was a net in-
closing bad and good, and that the irreligion and su-
perstition of the mass of men would abuse and dis-
credit the holiest system.

If St. Ninian had not thought of this, there would
doubtless be much among the Roman Christians to
shock and to distress him. That Church he had
looked to, as the model of excellence and the guide to
truth ; to be taught by her he had relinquished home
and friends, and now he saw, even in her bosom, and
under the very eye of the Saintly Bishop, gross and
evident sin. " I know," says St. Augustine, " that
there are many who adore sepulchres and pictures ;"

50 ST. NINLVN's journey to ROfME.

and so by superficial or evil-disposed persons, among
heretical or pagan contemporaries, the Church was ac-
cused of introducing a new idolatry of martyrs and
relics, and substituting as objects of divine worship
those whose tombs were consecrated by the venera-
tion of the people. 1 "I know," proceeds the Saint,
" that there are many who di'ink to excess on occasion
of bui'ials, and make great feasts, under pretence of
religion."''^ Among their testimonies to their gene-
rally consistent and virtuous lives, the very heathens
we find charging Christians with immorality, with the
moi'e earnestness because of its contradicting the rules
they professed. Violence, party spirit, ambition, found
a place among them. The election of the present
Bishop — for at Rome the whole body of Christians had
a voice in the choice of their Bishop — had been at-
tended with violence and bloodshed. The clergy were
often secular in their habits, endeavouring to gain
favour with the rich, and using their influence to ob-
tain legacies ; so that the civil power interfered by
law to check the evil. The wealthy were infected by
the luxury of the age and yielded to the pleasures and
dissipation common to their class. It might fall to St.
Ninian's lot to witness the sad abuses which were
practised on the vigil of some martyr, corrupting the
holiest services to evil ; abuses such that the celebra-
tions themselves were suppressed by St. Ambrose, and
the abuses provided against, by the influence of St. Au-

But indeed, how could it be otherwise, when the

' As by Eunapius and Faustus the Manichee, quoted by Gib-
bon, c. 28, notes 60 and 88.

* St. Aug. de MoribusEccl. Christ. 1. c. 34,

ST. NINIAn's journey to ROME. 51

world was flocking into the Church. " In speaking
against such men," is St. Augustine's answer, "you
do but condemn those whom the Church herself con-
demns, and daily labours to correct, as wicked chil-
dren. It is one thing that we are commanded to teach,
another we are commanded to correct, and forced to
tolerate till we can amend it." For the last seventy
years the emperors had been, with few exceptions, pro-
fessed Christians ; they had encouraged the same pro-
fession in others, and men influenced by the considera-
tion of worldly interest, and with no serious sense of
religion, would outwardly embrace it. And let us not
forget that by doing so, faulty as the motive might
be, they yet brought themselves and those dependent
on them, under a holy discipline, and to the enjoy-
ment of privileges, and inward influences, which might
prevail in their children's case if not in their own, and
lead them to eternal life. Still this prevalence of an
external profession could not but have the effect of
lowering the apparent standard of Christian holiness.
It needed a counteracting influence, that the Church
might still be the light of the world and the salt of the
earth ; and it found it in the visible separation from
the world, and eminent sanctity of those who followed
out their baptismal vows by the relinquishment of all
earthly ties, and the professed adoption of a religious
life. The Holy virgins and monks it was who now
kept alive the flame of piety, and were, so to say,
the soul of the Church. And their holiness testified
perpetually against the unworthy lives of others.
This is ever to be kept in mind when we read (as in
St. Jerome or St. Sulpicius) of the evil and worldly
lives of the clergy of their time. They had before
them laigh living standards of the devotion and sanctity

52 ST. NINLVN's journey to ROME.

suited to the Christian calling, and saw more vividly
any departure from it. It was the disciple and bi-
ographer of St. Martin, and tlie monk of Palestine,
the admirers and advocates of perfect self-denial, and
the ascetic life, who chiefly speak of the evils pre-
valent among Clu'istians. That they discerned these
evils implied that the principle of right, the conscience
of the Church, was sensitive and whole. There are
ages where Christians so lose the true standard, that
they are unconscious of their loss.

This may guard us against misjudging the Church
which St. Ninian now visited, whilst in endeavouring
to pourtray its i-eal condition, we repeat Avhat contem-
poraries have said of the evils which existed in it.

Externally indeed the Church of Rome had now
attained to great splendour and magnificence. The
time had come when the wealth of the nations poured
in to her, and "she decked herself with jewels as a
bride doth." The very Christians who had endured
the last and most trying persecution of Dioclesian,
raised up moi-e splemlid Churches than he had de-
stroyed. Long before, during her earlier persecutions,
the sacred vessels were of gold and silver. Martyrs
suifered because they refused to give up the holy
trust, and we know the details of them from the very
inventories made by the spoilers.^ If, then, con-
fessorship be an argument for sanctity, and sanctity
for a perception of the truth, we have this authority
for decking with magnificent adornings the Christian
Churches, as the Jewish Temple was by Divine com-
mand. In Rome, the Basilicas liad been given to the
Church, noble oblong buildings, with rows of columns

' Bingham, 8. 6. 21.


running lengthwise, and forming, as it were, a nave
and aisles. Other Churches were erected over the
tombs of Martyrs, where the awful service of the
Christian Sacrifice was performed, according to the
majestic and simple Liturgy which the Church had
received from St. Peter. The taste and magnificence
of the present Pope had contributed much to adorning
the sacred edifices, and enhancing the grandeur of
tlie services. For the continuous praise of the ever
blessed Trinity he had provided for the chaunting
of the Psalter night and day, with the Doxology as we
now use it. He had built two Basilicas, and given
costly offerings of gold and silver vessels to others.
Ai'ound the altars, lamps of gold, and wax lights
in massive candlesticks, burnt by day and night,
dispelling the natural light. The perfumed cloud
of incense rose up in the solemn service of the
Mass. Gold and silver vessels, and precious stones
furnished and adorned the Churches, and garlands
and flowers hung around ; nay, the devotion of the
people made them hang up, on cords of gold, memo-
rials in precious metals of the blessings they had re-
ceived in answer to their prayers, or through the
intercession of the Martyr, over whose grave the
Church was raised. ^

Such were the Churches and Services of Rome, and
so deeply was St. Ninian influenced by them, that
his first work, on returning as a Missionary into
Britain, was to build a Church after the Roman
fashion, and there with the Faith of the Roman
Church, to introduce her custom in the celebration of
Divine offices.

1 Bingham, 8. 8. 2.


There was one object of surpassing interest, to
which first he made his way — the Churches where
the martyred remains of St, Peter and St. Paul were
laid. The body of St. Paul had been buried a little
distance from Rome, on the Ostian road, where his
Church now stands ; that of St. Peter, on the Vatican,
probably by the Jewish Christians who lived in that
quartei". Afterwards part of each was laid beside that
of the other, in vaults in their respective Churches,
that as they were lovely in their lives they might not
be divided in death. These were recognized as
their burial places at the end of the second century,
and at this time, St. Jerome says, " the Bishops of
Rome, offered the Holy Sacrifice to God over the
revered bones of departed human beings, and consid-
ered their tombs as Altars of Christ." The Vatican,
where the more splendid vault and Church were placed,
was known as the Confession of St. Peter and the
Limina Apostolorum. Hither sentiments of devotion
drew Christians, at this time, from all parts of the
world, emperors, consuls, and generals, says St. Chry-
sostom, devoutly visited the sepulchres of those who
in their lives had been lowly in the world, but were
now exalted.

To seem to be, were it only in imagination,
brought near to those chiefest of the Apostles, and
most blessed Martyrs, must have been esteemed by
St. Ninian a singular privilege. It is a natural senti-
ment which men of all ages are affected by. "We
move," said the philosopliic heathen, " in those places
where thei-e are, as it were, the very footmarks of those
we admire and love. For my own part Athens itself
does not so much delight me by exquisite and magnifi-
cent works of art, as by calling to mind those greatest

ST. NINIAn's journey to ROME. 55

of men ; wliere each was wont to live, to sit, and to
discourse ; and their burial places I look on with the
intensest interest." How much more to a Christian to
trace in Rome the places which had been consecrated
by the footsteps, the blood, the very remains, of the
Apostles. To recall the image of St. Paul, the aged
prisoner, his deep knowledge of Christian Truth, his
zeal, his constraining eloquence, his patience, his cha-

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